Hyderabad: A study conducted here by researchers from three different institutes — in Hyderabad, Sydney and London —has found that many local, Indian and multinational packaged food companies are breaking rules in providing information on the nutrition labels pasted on their products.
As part of a research to find out adherence of packaged food products with nutritional labelling guidelines, the researchers checked nutrition labels on 4,166 packaged products of 14 food companies displayed for sale at various grocery stores and supermarkets in the city.
Only 52 per cent of these products displayed nutrient information on energy, protein, carbohydrate, sugar and total fat, meeting the minimum requirements of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India.
Out of these samples, only 27 per cent met the minimum criteria defined by Codex, an international food code established by FAO and WHO. The violations are not limited to small local brands but also well-known national brands.
However, this is an issue that has not attracted any action from the authorities even though this, by law, is an offence. A senior official of the TS food safety department said, “We have not taken action against any company. We are usually busy with things like adulteration.”
The study was conducted by the Georgia Institute of Global Health — Sydney and Hyderabad, University of Sydney and Imperial College, London.
No data on saturated fats and sodium on packages
Have you ever checked the nutrition label on your packet of potato chips before digging into it or on the packaging of your snack? Chances are that you are consuming many grams of unsaturated fats or sodium.
It has been three years since the Food Safety Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Act was amended in 2013, making it mandatory for food companies using fats, oils or fat emulsions in their products to mention on their labels the amount of saturated and transfats present in the food apart from protein, carbohydrate, fat and energy.
However, a walk into supermarkets to check labels of products will show that some of the major brands, especially those selling potato chips, salted snacks, beverages and even milk do not provide data on saturated or transfats.
Sodium is another bone of contention which experts have been seeking to be made compulsory on labels. However, this has not been made mandatory. WHO says adults should consume less than 2,000 mg of sodium, or 5 gm of salt, but some snacks have more than a day’s requirement of sodium in just 100 grams.
In a study on packaged food in Hyderabad, it was found that only 46 per cent of products displayed saturated fat levels and just 41 per cent displayed sodium content.
Dr Rama Guggilla, research fellow at the Georgia Institute for Global Health, says, “Saturated fats get converted to LDL cholesterol which are harmful as they cause cardiovascular diseases and stroke. High sodium intake also has a negative impact on heart as it raises blood pressure.”
“Some brands either do not mention how much sodium they have or just mention the salt content in the product, which does not give the true picture of sodium presence. The same is the case with fat as many products just mention total fat and not saturated and unsaturated fat separately,” she said.
Ananya Tewari of the Centre for Science and Environment says, “Mandatory labelling of sodium is necessary. It can be a significant intervention by the government as it will help people make choices.”...