Concerned about the increasing susceptibility of India’s youth to lifestyle diseases like cancer, diabetes, uncontrolled hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases, scientists’ experts and doctors have written to the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), urging them to take responsibility for the consumer and impose scientific and globally agreed ‘cut offs’ on nutrients of concern in all packaged and processed food. The signatories are part of Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest (NAPi).
The letter is the outcome of a webinar held earlier in June where the findings of the recently conducted Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey data were discussed. The survey revealed that among children between 5 to 19 years of age, 56 per cent had cardiometabolic risk factors, with similar prevalence in those who are believed to be undernourished: thin-54 per cent and stunted-59 per cent.
While requesting for a policy change where “Front of pack labels on packaged foods with more than one ingredient should be based on the WHO recommended thresholds as these are being used worldwide,” the organisations also expressed its belief that food safety for consumers of packaged foods should be assured through appropriate packaged information based on relevant evidence instead of the marketing-based influence of the food industry.
The webinar, hosted by NAPi on June 4, 2021, included other key public health organisations like Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI), Paediatric and Adolescent Nutrition Society (PAN), and Epidemiology Foundation of India (EFI), that spoke of the Future of a ‘Strong Nutrition Profile Model (NPM)’ to guide consumption of processed and ultra-processed food in India towards eradicating the NCD burden.
In 2018 the Food Safety Standards Authority India (FSSAI) published a draft regulation for FOPL which was subsequently withdrawn for further deliberation. In 2019 December, FSSAI delinked FOPL from general labeling regulations and is currently seeking consultations with civil society, industry, and nutrition experts for a viable model for India.