MP roundtable discussion with MPs on the Importance of Front of Pack Warning Labels to control NCDs

Consumer VOICE organized a round table discussion with Hon’ble Members of Parliament and senior doctors and consumer activists on 30th March, 2022 at Constitution Club of India, New Delhi on ‘The Importance of Front of Pack Warning Labels to control NCDs’. 
The members were from both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. The meetings itself were fruitful as we were able to sensitize the parliamentarians on the subject which is relatively new and distributed IEC materials and research papers for a background.

 MPs Present in the Discussion

  • Dr Vikas Mahatme, Rajya Sabha
  • Shri Pradeep Gandhi, Ex MP, Lok Sabha
  • Shri P. Bhattacharya, MP, Rajya Sabha

Messages by the MPs

Dr Vikas Mahatme, Rajya Sabha MP present at the occasion said that “One of the possible ways of making a choice between healthy and unhealthy foods is to have front of pack warning labels on food packets, so that consumers are able to identify foods that are High in Salt sugar and Fats. He also stressed that FOPL will work best when it is made mandatory.”

Shri Pradeep Gandhi, Ex MP, Lok Sabha while talking on generating awareness on the health harms of unhealthy packaged foods stresses that “implementation of FOPL which is backed by scientific evidence, should be discussed in the Parliament so that timely regulation of front of pack labels can help in saving hundreds of lives.”

Speaking on the same lines, Shri P. Bhattacharya, MP, Rajya Sabha, agrees that “Front of pack warning labels are very important for preventing non-communicable diseases in India. Consumption of unhealthy packaged foods can be controlled by bringing in the correct science based regulations.”

Messages by Doctors

Dr Umesh Kapil President of the Epidemiological Foundation of India, said that

“FOPL is a very important intervention to educate the masses on the healthy and

unhealthy foods. He also said that “Unfortunately, the industries want very high

cut-offs for their products so that they can make their products tastier, thereby

compromising on the healthiness of the product.”

Prof Harshpal Singh Sachdev, Senior Consultant of Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science and Research said that “If we do not want to give our future generation a lifelong diseases requiring medicines, so we have to make efforts to curb unhealthy consumption of foods. The process should begin from childhood and the best way to do that is to provide warning labels like we have on cigarette packs. A warning label should help a child to discern that this is bad for health.  It’s high time the FSSAI acts on this otherwise we will have problem and agony for our future generation.”

Messages by Consumer Activists

Dr. Arun Gupta, National Convener BPNI said that FOPL guidelines/rules in the right direction has the potential to encourage reformulation of the food products and could save people from big food industry’s aggressive marketing. He opined that this FOPL regulation has to be perfect in terms of the label design, Nutritional Profile Model and must be mandatory. Only then it will impact the NCD control measures.

Mr Ashim Sanyal, CEO, Consumer VOICE, said that “FOPL design cannot be left at the whims and fancies of the industry which is only focusing on their profits. A wrong and voluntary label design will stand in the way of public health safety which is already reeling under great pressure especially after COVID.”

Follow-up action

A letter was drafted on behalf of the MPs by Consumer Rights organisations and the same was mailed to DR Vikas Mahatme to be forwarded to the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India. The letter briefly points to the need of Warning labels on packaged foods that are High in Salt, Sugar and Fats. It also raises the concern that FSSAI is considering “Health Star Rating” (HSR) as a preferred FOPL among other options in draft regulation which it is not supported by science and cannot identify the unhealthy nutrient (salt/sugar/fat).

Media Follow-up

Video bytes were given by the MPs and the doctors on the importance of FOPL to curb non-communicable diseases or NCDS which are being used in social media.

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