’Unhealthy’ product claims worry a healthy nutra industry


The key to any successful product in today’s world of Nutra is the claims and many a times blame on the regulatory system. And the challenges that the industry has to face with innovations versus regulations is undermined at times by ‘unhealthy’ health claims!

The world of ‘Translational Innovation’ which positions Nutra foods in any environment is pebbled with fire stones on which a manufacturer walks through in his tough journey. Consumer is rattled with the world of labelling and advertisement of ‘unhealthy and superlative claims’ which lands him/her into another pebbled path with different set of fire stones!

The consumer is also confused whether it is a scientifically orchestered product or one which is a fly-by-night product? We also see the market moving from urban to rural which makes it easy for the ‘scientific evidenceless products’ enter this huge ocean where many industries make a quick penetration to ultimately gain a one-time customer! Rest of the industry is unable to cope up with this unusual phenomena and many times take to much deeper over claims without epidemiological or scientific evidence to combat their products spending huge amount of money on research for ethical evidence-based Nutra products.

Some of the advertisements and claims talk about nutraceuticals as medicine for one’s wrong eating habits or overeating or as long as one takes their nutraceuticals one can indulge in unhealthy eating and still be OK! How false claims have penetrated to have a very unhealthy ~3,000 calories fatty dinner and above it another 1,000 calories ‘Dessert to digest the dinner’ laced with a magic nutraceutical leaving, at the end of the tunnel, ~500 calories after dinner!!

How can this scenario be true! There has been a strong protest from the industry organisations against the black sheep. In the realm of vitamins and minerals it has become a common situation where a dash of Ayurceutical is believed to convert the product and move its regime from Pharmacy to Nutracy (if I may introduce this new word!). How to prove or disprove is not the question but ultimately it is the ethical nature of the industry which must generate the science and evidence-based approach to its products’ claims to survive a sustainable consumer market.

The long awaited release of nutraceuticals and functional foods regulations from FSSAI is round the corner. There is more that all of us expect and need to work on Ethics of products beyond regulations. Regulations are a must and need to be dynamic. But if the industry and manufacturers do not look at food safety from an ethical point of view, but look at the product purely from the commercial point of view, without the chemistry and epidemiology base, there will be turmoil and confusion which can destroy even the good market of good Nutra products.

Billions of rupees’ research and investment goes down the drain at the behest of one or two wrong claims and products, which can put a lid on segment itself, provided enforcement of regulations are strictly followed. This attitude and ethics can change the lifestyle of manufacturer and consumer alike for a healthy living and get money’s value in the long chain of biomolecules.

New foods should have NuFFooDS approach to innovate and gain consumer’s confidence. The claims need to be fully supported by evidence-based science and at times epidemiological evidence webbed into it. It is this life cycle of a product that will make the industry horizon of nutraceuticals, nutritionals and functional foods a great success in India and game changer for the sector with India’s 5,000 year heritage of Ayurceuticals.

It is this management that needs to be focussed in our future endeavours to rationalise the product framework for value of money, respect to human life and ethical respect to regulations and manufacturers and of course with the science behind the product fully backed with traditional knowledge wherever available.

The earlier this is realised the path would be faster and sustainability of the product higher ushering the new era of ‘More from Less’ for Nutra and more added value for consumer’s money. I see a bright future for the Nutra industry, academia and R&D institutions as long as they are networked together with a ‘Team Nutra India’ approach to emerge as a global leader.

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