Experts welcome caution labels in food packaging to protect the health of Indians.
Experts unanimously praised that warning labels are the most effective front-of-package labeling (FOPL) to help Indian consumers identify and avoid unhealthy foods. “Why is Health Star Rating (HSR) not suitable for India?” These comments came from a webinar hosted by CUTS International to hear from subject matter experts. Experts have strongly disagreed with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for moving ahead with the introduction of Health Star Rating (HSR) labels in the Indian market. The move is based on limited research conducted by a business school ignoring the best practices around the world and the evidence surrounding it.
To help consumers make healthier choices, Australia and New Zealand launched the voluntary HSR system in 2014. But research shows that the system is extremely flawed because unhealthy products are still able to get high scores. This is because the rating is based on the overall nutritional value and the inclusion of healthy ingredients (such as fiber, protein and vitamins) excludes unhealthy ingredients (such as sugar, saturated fats and salts). More importantly, the system does not effectively help vulnerable consumers who need it the most.
George Cherian, Director, CUTS International, and a member of the Food Authority (FSSAI), as a special guest, strongly objected to some of the research findings at IIM, quoting in his keynote address that our country’s policy makers should keep in mind that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) Contributes 62 percent of deaths; Of concern is preventable premature death, which is responsible for 48 percent of deaths. Currently, food regulators, who have a mandate to ensure safe food for the people of this country, have completely ignored the NCD aspect, linking it to high-sugar, salty and fatty foods, and selecting the role that FoPL can play. Format of FoPL.
He added that it was generally felt that the presidency of the FSSAI was aimed at consulting all stakeholders, strongly influenced by the packaged food industry, to come up with a labeling system that would ultimately be more industry-friendly rather than industry-friendly. Addressing the needs of consumers in India.
Dr. Lindsay Smith Tally, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, gave a detailed presentation on touching on a variety of labels, most notably touching on the context of HSR labels and warning labels. He noted that 8 years after the HSR label was introduced in Australia, there was still no evidence that it had a significant effect on the nutritional value of human food and beverages.
In fact, such labels confuse consumers and promote over-processed food products. He added that a warning label, which has a wide global acceptance, helps achieve two of the most important goals of a labeling system, such as informing consumers and reducing the use of unhealthy foods. He also presented some evidence to substantiate his position and even talked about a recent field test conducted in India to see if FoPLs have helped Indian consumers identify ‘high-in’ foods and reduce their willingness to buy them.
Dr. Lindsay, who has published more than 115 articles in leading academic journals and his work on front-end package labeling in the New York Times, The Guardian and other international media outlets, has personally covered randomized experimental coverage in six states ranging from 18 years to 18 years. John is an adult.
Participants were randomized to one of five FOPLs: a control label (barcode), an alert label, an HSR, a guide daily volume (GDA), or a traffic light label. Less than half (39.1 percent) of the control group participants correctly identified all products of high nutrition (s) for anxiety. As all FOPLs lead to an increase in these results, the biggest differences are observed for the warning label (60.8 percent) followed by the traffic light label (54.8 percent), GDA (55.0 percent), and HSR (45.0 percent).
Related to the control, only the warning label has reduced the intention to buy the product. The results suggest that warning labels are the most effective FOPL to help Indian consumers identify and avoid unhealthy foods. During the discussion, Saroja Sundaram, Executive Director, Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG), Chennai, how Dr. Lindsay’s presentation speaks volumes about re-emphasizing our campaign for caution labels. He emphasized that the HSR did not work well for the Indian population and would never support FoPL’s goals.
Ashim Sanyal, Chief Operating Officer of Consumer Voice and a member of FSSAI’s Central Advisory Committee, noted that the presentation and findings of the research conducted by Dr. Lindsay and the team have once again highlighted how our regulators have gone astray. Through HSR labels, our regulators are trying to convey something that is beyond the comprehension of the average consumer.
Amit Khurana, Director, Center for Science and Environment, New Delhi, while sharing his journey with FoPL regulations and discussions, hoped that the FSSAI would one day muster the courage and give orders to them. He claims that no one knows better than FSSAI that symbol-based labels will work wonders among consumers in India, with labels / logos highlighting foods based on their experience with veggie, non-veggie, vegan foods, etc.
Before concluding, Antonio Picasso, Director General of Competere in Italy, who is closely following developments in India at FoPL, shared with the audience his ongoing anti-Nutrisco campaign in Europe. The virtual webinar was attended by about 55 representatives from home and abroad, including health experts, representatives of national and international organizations, industry representatives, AIIMS, Indian Medical Association, academic and research institutes of more than 14 states.
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