The misnomer of junk food for junk diet!


The complexities of scientific disciplines working together and interacting as well as interfacing with modern management techniques is well understood. With this multidisciplinary approach, the agenda of health and wellness lies in the combinatorial science of biotechnology, molecular medicine, bioinformatics, transcription research, genomics, proteomics as well as pharmacogenomics with obviously Nutrigenomics and Nutritional Sciences. The function of the gene when we look at reverse Nutraceutics and Nutritionals both for the phenotype and genotype attracts us into an array of different road maps for creating innovative healthy diets with bioactives and biomolecules on a food based approach. Perhaps for those who need it in higher concentrations because of the clinical reasons and under medical supervision one can also have them in the form of caplets, capsules, tablets and even liquids.

But of late the word junk food is a common word that is used by a number of people without even knowing the meaning of it! Can anybody explain to me which food is junk and how can food be junk? Perhaps what one means in a sense is junk diet! It is this that has created a mountain of confusion. For example ‘Potato is not good for health’, a recent myth which has confused its usage. Potato perhaps is one of the most condensed form of calories especially if one is looking for it and many good biomolecules in it. But however if potato is combined with many other ingredients by driving away moisture and loading it unsaturated fat and other goody goody things for taste then we are obviously creating from a good food a junk diet and certainly not a junk food!

Therefore the origin of junk diet cannot be impinged on food that is produced by nature! The human interference for the sensorial satisfaction and many other selfish reasons creates perhaps whether knowingly or unknowingly the junk diet. By classification of certain foods as junk food (per se and while talking or while delivering addresses in seminar, symposiums or in meetings and in reports, etc), the good food provided by nature gets a bad label. Thus even the normal population starts rejecting that class of food by calling them junk food. And therefore one has to be extremely cautious what they address, lest the normal consumer gets more confused than the confused consumer who calls junk diet as junk food! However, when one looks at Charaka Samhitha, one of the ancient documents from India on food it is clearly mentioned in it that food shall be taken in limited quantity (mitā). Using this wisdom of distilled knowledge of food and generating several combinations of safe food perhaps leads to a healthy life and a better lifestyle with good diet from good food.

However the regulatory aspects need also some thoughts on how safe should be our food holistically. What are the risks that we are taking by combining some foods which should not be combined? How do we improve and maintain our food safety and quality as a life time approach? What about the level of our global trust and the local thrust in growing such food? How good is our food safety chain of the raw material, storage conditions and distribution and reaching the consumer? How well is the management of the product safety in terms of recalling a product if it is unsafe and also maintaining the quality to reach out all the consumers in the spectrum of food chain?

It is here global partnership and knowledge networking must be in perfect order and not necessarily to import everything and trying to say that here it is served in a platter that can make the platform of India as the import hub of the world in spite of unlimited resources of nature we have! I guess it is good to mention here our Prime Minister’s statement ‘Make in India’. It is so true for Nutraceuticals, Ayurceuticals and of course to large extent Pharmaceuticals (which is happening to certain extent) and other health related food. The wisdom of 5,000 years is with us and the wisdom of regulatory is also with us. Let us not put self obstacles and keep on waiting for Codex decision but rather take agenda to Codex from India through the food safety authority and let Codex generate the agenda from India’s database which serves 4 billion meals a day. What a variety and what a ‘big data’ base. That is the leadership that India can give today unquestionably and we need to capitalise it.

This is more true when we look at the recent team work of Team India that produced a document ‘New Draft Regulations on Food Product Approval Systems in FSSAI’ by the unique combination of leading scientists, consumer organisations and NGO organisations, industry houses, the food safety authority representatives and cutting across and taking the views from a number of associations and organisations. Therefore the charisma of product approval must change in terms of a new window that India is going to create and perhaps other countries may follow India. But if such reports gets diluted with time and it will lose its warmth and priority and if semi-implemented then the effect is almost zero. It is here it is worth comparing such report to an aircraft. The aircraft is manufactured so meticulously with protocols and if it has to fly, the total unit of the aircraft is important. We cannot just have the turbo fan of a small aircraft in our hand and then try to fly. It is the structural organisation of the aircraft and the controlling parts as well as the regulatory regimen that is followed which will make it fly. So also of the above report which looks at section 22 pertaining to Nutraceuticals and other foods is urgently required to be implemented in toto. Perhaps not only NuFFooDS can emerge from such revolutionary regulatory changes by ‘Innovating the Innovation’ but also the foods can come out of the regulatory basket faster! I do not want to call them as fast food! But perhaps I can call them as safe foods but cleared faster!

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