Wednesday, November 16, 2011


It is indisputable that investors while ploughing money into industrial ventures expect a decent return on their capital and all the so called management courses teach the entrepreneurs how to maximize profit through efficient strategies. In practice the industry uses both direct and indirect techniques to increase the turn over by attracting more and more customers. In the food sector mandatory front of the pack labeling  is supposed to provide consumers an insight into the contents of a pack and design of the label can make a difference between success and failure. There are strict labeling laws that restrict the industry from making unsubstantiated claims on food packs targeting the consumer. But in some countries like Canada there seems to be another option for making such claims by categorizing the food items as natural health products which do not have to adhere to strict guidelines enforced for food products. It is not a desirable situation where tall health claims, not verified by the safety authorities, are printed on the labels with the consumer having no way to confirm the same. Here is a report on this issue: 

"Government inspectors are being placed in an "untenable situation" when they try to police some health claims on products in grocery stores, Health Canada was told more than three years ago, according to an internal document that also says the problem could lead to "adverse health effects." In a draft memo to Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq written in June 2008, senior officials outlined how the broad definition of a natural health product (NHP) meant "conventional foods with any type of health claims" could be classified as NHPs.
Unlike products regulated as a food, items classified as natural health products don't have to include a table of nutritional facts on the package. But they can make certain health claims even if these haven't been verified by Health Canada. The memo, released to Postmedia News using access to information legislation, notes that some in the food industry have jumped at the opportunity to get vitamin-fortified products on store shelves by using the natural health product regulations "as an alternate route for food products that do not comply with current food regulations." For example, products containing added amino acids not in compliance with food regulations with a claim "provides an optimal source of amino acids" can go the NHP route. This and other examples "illustrate the untenable situation for enforcement created by such a broad interpretation of the definition of natural health products," the memo states. In addition to an "uneven playing field for industry," the memo highlights the "potential for adverse health effects" for consumers, depending on the bio active substance added to products in food formats".

World over health claims by the industry are under closer scrutiny and still the manufacturers find loopholes in these regulations to defraud the consumer. A twin policy of deterrent punishment and revocation of manufacturing license can only ameliorate the sorry situation obtaining in many countries. Even when strong laws do exist, laxity in enforcing them can cause serious damage to the credibility of the safety regime in place. It may be time for inter country agencies like FAO/WHO take upon the task of unifying the standards for health oriented food products and make the member countries adhere to the same in the interest of safeguarding the health of the denizens.


1 comment:

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