C”The front-of-package labels are required for people to be aware of healthy and unhealthy food,” said Pawan Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI while addressing the National Consultation on Food Labelling Regulation for Safe and Healthy Food organized by CUTS International in participation FSSAI. Agarwal announced the formation of expert panel to look into draft Food Safety and Standards (Labelling & Display) Regulations, 2018 which were announced in April, 2018 by FSSAI. The regulations are at present at the stage of consideration by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. India is still at a comfortable stage where it can control the menace of unhealthy eating by working on public policy unlike countries like the US where the huge amount of money is spent just on tackling diseases like Obesity in public health. Agarwal also highlighted the fact that India is the only developing country where Industry representatives have come forward and took voluntary pledges to work for healthy and safe food for all. To push the industry to meet their voluntary commitments, FSSAI will be coming up with monitoring system details of which will be disclosed later.
Adding to the deliberations of consultation, Rajeev Kumar, Director (NCD), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare stressed how the chronic disease like Cancer, Diabetes and Hypertension is leading the burden of diseases in India. “Cancer kills 7 lakh people per year, there is around 7.1 crore diabetic population and one out of five Indians suffer from Hypertension”, said Kumar. Kumar pointed out that schemes like Ayushman Bharat and initiatives by Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs are working to target the risk factors and aim to look into these chronic diseases. People adapt to change in taste if they practice it for some time which indicates that behavioral change is to be targeted in people.
George Cheriyan, Director, CUTS International raised how Front-of-package label (FoPL) designs, which are clear and impactful, play an important role in increasing awareness and shifting food-eating norms. Mandatory FoPL are considered by governments around the globe as an effective and evidence-based way to improve diets. At least 16 FoPL systems are operating in 23 countries, with another 14 schemes proposed. Cheriyan also stressed how India can learn from best practices from Nordic countries with Keyhole Labels, Iran with Apple Labels and some more countries like Denmark, Chile, Norway, Singapore, South Africa and Ecuador which are leading the fight against Trans-fats, HFSS and unhealthy food consumption.
As the initiative to turn people to adopt for safe and healthy food options, FSSAI has already initiated campaigns like AajSeThodaKam and Eat Right Movement. The expert panel announced will comprise of Dr. Sesikeran, Former Director & Scientist, NIN; Dr. Nikhil Tandon, AIIMS; and Dr. Hemalatha, Director, National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) and.
The panellists and participants present in the consultation put forward various recommendations on how the final regulations shall look like keeping in the interest of the consumers. The simple, interpretive and understandable FoP labels taking into consideration the consumer behaviour, literacy level, regional diversity and buying patterns shall be put on food products, was the common demand by stakeholders present in the consultation.
Other panellist in the consultation were: Anil Kumar, Advisor(Standards) & Dr. N Bhaskar, Advisor(QA) from FSSAI; Dr. Satish Kulkarni, Former Head, National Dairy Institute, Bangalore; Dr. Nikhil Tandon, HoD, Department of Endocrinology, AIIMS; Dr. GM Subha Rao, Scientist-E, Deputy Director, NIN(ICMR), MoHFW; Ms Vandana Shah, Director, CTFK; Kanchan Zutshi, Secretary, Federation of Biscuit Manufacturers of India; Amit Khurana, CSE; and Raj Kapoor, MD, Assocom Institute of Bakery Technology & Management.
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