An expert committee set up by the Food and Safety Standards Authority of India has suggested several measures like banning junk food advertisements on children’s TV channels and kids’ programs, clear labelling of contents and ingredients and imposing additional taxes. This is in lieu of the increasing lifestyle disorders in children like diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.
The report ‘Consumption of fat, sugar and salt (FSS) & its health effects on Indian population’ prepared by the 11-member expert committee has also recommended measures to lower the use of unhealthy food items, keeping in mind the record that more than half of all the deaths in the country were due to non-communicable diseases.
The committee had been constituted by the FSSAI to study the high FSS content in food items and health risks associated with it.
The committee‘s report has recommended a ban on advertisements of food products with High FSS content on children’s shows and channels. Even smaller countries like Chile have such a ban in place. Celebrity endorsements of such food items should not be encouraged. The social media and online platforms should also be instructed to comply with this ban on advertising.
The committee also recommends that additional tax be imposed on ultra-processed food and sugar sweetened beverages, to lessen the consumption of foods and beverages which are pre-packaged.
Another major recommendation was the initiation of positive labelling of nutrients. This would create awareness on buying and consumption of healthy food choices.
The FSSAI scientific committee has welcomed and accepted the recommendations and comments of the committee. The committee comprised experts from the areas of medicine, nutrition, dietetics, from well-known medical research and academic institutions. This followed a directive from the Delhi high Court on solutions for wholesome and healthy food for children.
Though India has millions of it population who live in unsanitary conditions which make them vulnerable to many communicable diseases, almost 53% of the deaths occur because of diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular and hypertension. The incidence of these chronic diseases is increased by a high consumption of sugar, salt, and saturated and trans-fats. Therefore, it is indeed high time attention was paid to the High fat, salt, sugar content in food.
Estimates put the figure of such deaths to reach 8 million by 2020- which is almost 100% increase from the death rate from two decades ago.
“Adverse health effect of consumption of fast or junk food which have a high content of fats, sugar and salt, on consumers, particularly in young children, has become a cause of concern,” the note on the committee report pointed out.
The committee however had to start from right at the beginning. As the term “junk food” Is not defined in the Food and Safety Act of 2006, the committee had to define and brought under domain food items like soft drinks, pizzas, burgers and snacks like pakoras and samosas.