Packets of Nestle EveryDay Dairy Whitener and Nestea Lemon Iced Tea Premix, both manufactured by Nestle India Ltd., are displayed for sale at a general store in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Vivek Prakash/Bloomberg)

Cut Salt, Sugar, Fat In Packaged Products Voluntarily: FSSAI To Food Industry

To promote safe and healthy food, regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority of India asked the industry to voluntarily reduce salt, sugar and saturated fat in packaged food products as it would take about a year to make labelling norms operational.

The FSSAI yesterday launched a national campaign ‘The Eat Right Movement’ to improve public health and combat lifestyle diseases.

The edible oil industry, bakeries and fast-moving consumer goods companies, including Nestle India Ltd., Hindustan Unilever Ltd. and Patanjali, took a pledge to reduce the level of salt, sugar and fat in food products.

To kick start and popularise the movement, FSSAI has roped in film actor Rajkummar Rao for a short video that encourages citizens to reduce salt, sugar and fat. The video would be telecast on television channels and circulated through other mass media including social media.

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“We have come out with draft food labelling regulation. It is with the Health Ministry now,” FSSAI Chief Executive Officer Pawan Kumar Agarwal said at the launch of this movement which was attended by top officials of Nestle India, Patanjali and HUL among others.

“It will take at least one year to be operational. Until then, this is the opportune time for the food industry to reformulate their products,” Agarwal added.

Agarwal said the regulator would get actual feedback from the industry while finalising the labelling norms if food business operators start following the draft rules.

The FSSAI CEO said that it would take about 4-5 months to finalise the packaging and labelling norms and then at least six months would be given to the industry for compliance.

While launching ‘The Eat Right Movement’, he said the campaign is built on two broad pillars of ‘Eat Healthy’ and ‘Eat Safe’.

On the demand side, the movement focuses on empowering citizens to make the right food choices. On the supply side, it nudges food businesses to reformulate their products, provide better nutritional information to consumers and make investments in healthy food as responsible food businesses.

While the edible oil industry, bakeries and halwais' committed to phasing out trans-fats by 2022, major food companies pledged to reformulate packaged foods to reduce the level of salt, sugar and saturated fat.

The food services sector promised to provide healthier food options and introduce menu-labelling, even as major food retail players including e-commerce players agreed to promote healthier food options and responsible retail practices.

This movement could not have come at a better time, with non-communicable diseases accounting for one in five disease-related deaths, widespread anaemia and other micronutrient deficiencies on the rise and India becoming the diabetes capital of the world, the FSSAI said.

Speaking on occasion, K Vijay Raghavan, principal scientific adviser to the government, said there is a need to complement reduction of salt, sugar, fat with lifestyle changes such as eating a more plant-based, natural diet.

The industry is a big player in supporting this movement. Therefore, the synergy between government, civil society and the industry is critical to its success, he added.

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