Indian consumers are often unaware of reading the details of ingredients in a packaged food product which leads to knowledge of eating unhealthy foods. Recently, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) devised a plan to label ultra-processed foods with a Health Star Rating (HSR), where healthier food items will get a high rating. Now, consumers could see a star rating behind every FSSAI-regulated food package to understand whether the food is healthy or not.
The Commonwealth Association for Health and Disability (COMHAD) alleged this plan and mentioned that the Health Star Rating system would confuse and mislead customers. COMHAD officials added that stars cannot be used to decide whether food is safe to eat or not. Instead, an interpretative warning label in front of each package should be used to make it easy for customers to reject unhealthy foods and accept healthy products. A medical journal that promotes the warning label suggests that the visual warning label on food products is easy to understand and will have an impact on the consumer.
Unhealthy foods affecting health
A Delhi University professor, Ashwani Mahajan, has also launched a campaign against the FSSAI’s decision to introduce an HSR system for ultra-processed foods. Mahajan said: “We have eaten nutritious and healthy, unprocessed and real food, our diet has always been very balanced. But lately, the swing of ultra-processed food has increased significantly where the market is loaded with ultra-processed foods, which are aggressively marketed, affecting the health of children and adults.”
Numerous researches and studies conducted by industry experts also suggest that the Health Star Rating system on food products could confuse or mislead consumers. At the same time, an illustrated warning label will impact consumers’ decision to purchase an unhealthy product. Many countries, including Chile, Peru, Israel, Mexico and Uruguay, have already made warning labels a mandatory practice. On the other hand, countries like Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Venezuela will soon implement this practice.
Mahajan, while emphasizing India’s health status, said, “It should be noted that companies use large amounts of salt (sodium), sugar and saturated fat to attract customers. and make them addicted to these products.In a country like India, diabetes, blood pressure, kidney and liver diseases are prevalent due to excess sugar, salt/sodium and saturated fats in Food.” People lack such awareness and unknowingly consume these harmful foods. Therefore, it is the government’s responsibility to tell people which food items are safe to eat and which are not, he added.
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