Scientific cut-offs for salt, sugar & fats required to prevent NCD crisis: Experts

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Nutrient profiling is a scientific method for categorizing food and beverage items according to their nutritional composition

Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) along with the Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest (NAPi), Epidemiological Foundation of India (EFI) and Pediatrics and Adolescent Nutrition Society (PAN) recently organised a webinar to discuss the importance of a strong Nutrient Profile Model (NPM) to guide consumption of processed and ultra-processed food in India. Leading global experts, doctors and senior scientists discussed the need for a consensus particularly in light of obstacles such as opposition from the food industry.

Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, by adopting scientific thresholds for these ingredients -salt, sugar, and fats – have taken decisive steps to safeguard their population, especially children. 

Nutrient profiling is a scientific method for categorising food and beverage items according to their nutritional composition.  It is developed with the key goals of reducing consumption of sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar.

Nutrition profile models (NPM) translate these broad goals into specific food and beverage targets and helps us to identify and differentiate foods that are unhealthy (high in salt, sugar, and/or saturated fats).

Prof Carlos A Monteiro, Professor of Nutrition and Public Health at the School of Public Health, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil said, “NPMs are frameworks developed after much research and field-level studies by the WHO and experts from all over the world.”

Prof Monteiro who was instrumental in developing the NOVA classification and the NPM model for Latin America, further added, “The WHO SEARO model was put together in consultation with member countries in the region and is perfectly aligned to the Codex Alimentarius or food code. Simply put, there has never been a better time for India to announce and mandate these limits in packaged foods and beverages. Concerned about the growing levels of obesity, Brazil imposed medically proven thresholds and mandated our food industry to comply. It is high time that India should do the same.”

Dr Arun Gupta, Convenor, Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) commented, “An NPM that is able to adequately distinguish between healthy and unhealthy foods can guide all food and nutrition regulatory policies, particularly related to correctly identifying foods with excessive amounts of potentially harmful nutrients such as sugar, fats, and sodium, and help people make good food choices during these challenging times.”

Experts believe that a simple Nutrient Profile Model with single nutrient thresholds for two categories – food and beverages, works best.  The single threshold nutrient profile model has been the most effective solution for implementing and monitoring the front of package label policy (FOPL).


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