Public health experts call for urgent adoption of food labels


Aligarh, November 2: The AMU academics lent their voice to a nationwide call for urgent policy action on Front of Packet Labelling (FOPL) regulations on packaged and ultra-processed food and beverages in response to the rising concern about the health of children. At an interaction at AMU, department heads of Social Work and Community Medicine of AMU joined public health leaders from across the country, to urge for effective regulation of packaged food in India, to address growing public health concern.

People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), People’s Initiative for Participatory Action on Food Labelling (PIPAL), Department of Social Work and Sociology, AMU & Department of Community Medicine, Department of Social Work, University of Science and Technology Meghalaya (USTM) and Childline India organised the joint consultation on children’s nutrition rights at Old Boys Lodge, AMU.

The stakeholder pointed out that there is growing evidence linking childhood obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and the overall burden of non-communicable diseases spiralling out of control with excess consumption of ultra-processed food and beverages.

Prof Parvez Qamar Rizvi, Chairman, Department of Plant Protection, AMU was the chief guest, while Prof Abdul Matin, (USTM, Meghalaya, and former Chairman, Department of Sociology, AMU) was one of the key panel members.

Speaking at the consultation, Dr Ali Jafar Abedi, Assistant Professor, Community Medicine Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College (JNMC) said, “More than 14 million Indian children are obese or overweight, putting them at risk of developing NCDs when they are adults. Regulatory steps such as nutrition thresholds that make it mandatory for the industry to reformulate and make their food products healthier, at par with global and scientific standards, will go a long way in preventing an obesity or diabetes epidemic.”

Human right activist and CEO of PVCHR Dr Lenin Raghuvanshi pointed that PIPAL is an effort to remind the policy makers, nutrition leaders and industry that “Children have a right to health and nutrition, as per Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Good nutrition is a fundamental right as per the UN Convention of Child Rights. It is time to make sure that children are given their right as unhealthy nutrition puts their entire future at stake. This show of support from AMU, following our earlier consultation with BHU, bolsters our cause.”

Describing the ‘high in’ warning food labels as a critical component of a suite of measures to fight NCDs, Satyapal Singh of CUTS International said, “It could be India’s winning strategy to ensure a healthier tomorrow for its children. A warning label on the front of the package helps consumers identify products high in sugar, sodium, saturated fats, trans fats and total fats in a quick, clear and effective way for a healthier life. ”

Participating in the panel discussion, Dr Mohammad Kashif of Resident Doctors’ Association, JNMCH, said, “In recent years more than 60% of all deaths in India are due to NCDs. Poor diet, as a result of packaged and ultra-processed food, is a leading cause for this epidemiological shift in India’s disease burden.”

According to Dr. Simon Jude of Soch -Beyond the Imagination, “Research findings have shown that countries such as Chile which have adopted the warning label system of FOPL have succeeded in reducing consumption of the unhealthiest ultra-processed foods and beverages. With Brazil, Israel, Chile and more recently Colombia adopting ‘high in’ warning labels on their food packets – considered a best practice approach – there is a global momentum to make packaged foods safer and healthier.”

Shruti Nagvanshi, Convenor, Savitri Bai Phule Women’s Forum, said, “With more than 14.4 million obese children, India has the second-highest number of children with childhood obesity in the world. By 2025 this number is expected to reach a staggering 17 million. There is growing evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic has potentially increased the risk of children becoming obese. Being overweight or obese is directly associated with life-threatening non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer”.

Prof. Naseem Ahmad Khan, Chairman, Department of Social Work, AMU proposed the vote of thanks, while Dr. S N Fatmi, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, AMU conducted the programme.


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