[Answered] Processed food regulation is too lenient to make a difference to snacking’s serious health costs. Comment.

Introduction: Contextual introduction.
Body: Explain how the processed food regulation is too lenient to make a difference to snacking’s serious health costs.

Conclusion: Write a way forward.

The comprehensive national nutrition survey-2016 states that more than half the children between the ages of 5 and 19 show biomarkers of non-communicable diseases. And, consuming highly processed foods increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertensions, heart diseases, stroke, and kidney disease. The non-communicable diseases account for 60% of all deaths in the country.

Too lenient to make a difference:

  • Limited ability to control quality and safety: The sheer number of players, especially in the large unorganized segment, involved in the food value-chain, makes implementation of quality and safety norms difficult.
  • High limits: Lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cardiac ailments are already at alarming levels but FSSAI limits for permissible sugar, salt and fat content in processed foods are very high.
  • Long time for FOPL: FSSAI has given the snack industry a long four-year-period before front of packet labelling (FOPL) becomes mandatory. Moreover, ‘positive nutrients’ may mask the negative impact of high fat, salt and sugar in the food and the industry will use it to mislead the consumer.
  • Labelling format: The labelling format appears to be aimed only at individuals who are literate and nutritionally aware. Further, limited general and nutrition literacy mean understanding of the text-intensive nutrient information is difficult.
  • Issues with star rating: the positive factors for a higher rating like presence of vegetables, fruits, nuts, millets, fibres, etc are no consolation if the sugar, salt or fat content are also high in the same product.
  • FSSAI’s baseline reference value for food risk factors at 21 gms per 100 gms serving for sugar in solid foods is too high considering that WHO had recommended keeping daily sugar intake to below 25 gms ideally.

Government should consider using taxation as an instrument to discourage junk foods and incentivise healthy food as regular tax hikes on cigarettes have helped disencentivise smoking. Also recommended dietary allowance (RDA) claims of the packaged food industry need rigorous laboratory testing.

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