The George Institute for Global Health sheds light on India’s front-of-pack Nutrition Labels
Research at the George Institute for Global Health has provided important insights into the creation of front-of-pack nutrition labels (FoPLs) that are easy to understand and promote healthier food choices. FoPLs of different types (reductive/interpretive) highlighting various components of packaged food are in use in many parts of the world. They are mandatory in some countries and voluntarily applied by manufacturers in others. FoPLs provide key information on food components that consumers can use to make choices and purchasing decisions, such as avoiding unhealthy options and choosing healthier ones. India, which does not have a FoPL system in place yet, intends to implement one to promote informed decision-making on packaged food purchasing, as part of promoting healthier diets in the population.
While the use of FoPLs is linked to a lower risk of death and is an equitable intervention across income groups, interpretive FoPLs, like the Health Star Rating, Multiple Traffic Lights, Nutri-Score, and Warning labels, offer an assessment of the nutritional quality of food products that is quicker and simpler to understand than the more complex information contained in the nutrition information panel. As the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) prepares to implement a front-of-pack label system in India, it is important to address the information needs and preferences of the population and to develop a front-of-pack label (FoPL) that combines utility and acceptability for optimal impact. India is very diverse in literacy, especially health literacy, and in food habits and preferences. A FoPL ineffective use elsewhere in the world cannot be applied directly to the Indian market. Responsiveness to the concerns of consumers, and adaptation to the range of literacy levels is essential in the development of an optimal FoPL for India.
This study was undertaken to inform the selection and development of a FoPL that addresses India’s needs and preferences. This information may help the Indian population make better grocery and food choices. This is a crucial step towards tackling India’s continuing nutrition shift and the increased prevalence of unhealthy packaged foods.