Friday, December 9, 2011


Every country in this Planet is on the horns of a dilemma regarding the right mix of policies that will protect the consumers without sounding the death knell for the food industry which manufactures all types of food products to "satisfy" the consumer. While consumers rely on the national safety vigilance system to "discipline" the industry in terms of the quality and safety of the products in the market, who will be responsible if the very same consumers become "sick" by over eating and gluttony? How can any one blame the industry if it responds to consumer needs and turn out products meeting their expectations while making money in the process? Is it justified to ask the industry to give more importance to health promotion than to the needs of the palate? In a fair competition one who satisfies the consumer most will win the game and that is what every player is trying to do. Of course governments with their vast powers can provide a level playing field by including restrictive conditions that promotes health and insist that the industry works within the frame work laid out. Here is a critique on this issue by a discerning analyst which reflects the ground realities in the food sector. 

'Flavoring is an incredibly important component of creating processed foods, because it allows the industry to create products with the flavors of delicious high-quality ingredients, despite none being present.  The better a product tastes, the more likely we will be to buy it, so it's no wonder that creating these flavors is a big business. As the 60 Minutes story reveals companies use sugar, fat, salt, and other flavors created in chemistry labs, that human biology craves, to create pleasurable experiences for eaters.  Employees of the company, out on a trip to look for the next new flavor for soda, admit to Safer that they are trying to create flavors that are irresistible and addictive. For this reason many in public health argue that the processed foods industry is a big part of the reason for our world's obesity epidemic.  Processed food companies make more money by selling more products and they do this by designing these items to be irresistible.  Consuming more processed foods of course means more calories and that leads to weight gain.  This is why many public health advocates would like to place limits on companies' abilities to use sugars, fats, and salt in their foods. I doubt however, that many would argue that food companies want consumer to be overweight.  Weight gain instead, is simply an unintended consequence of maximizing sales through the creation of cheap, high calorie, hyper-palatable addictive foods.  Safer asks Givaudan VP of Global Strategy and Business Development, Bob Pellegrino, about this issue.  Referring to obesity, Safer asks if the food industry wants his company to create flavors so that people want more.  Pellegrino answered, "I don't think it's creating a desire for moreness, as well as it's a desire for memorability, so that people will repeat the purchase of the product and enjoy them."  Do you see the difference?  I don't either".

It is not that industry does not play the role of a truant in many instances by their surreptitious promotional activities, misleading advertisements, unrealistic and bloated claims, focused targeting of kids etc. But if there is a framework or set of guidelines to be followed by the industry, applicable to all, there is less likelihood of the industry getting the bad name as is happening now. Industry cannot take a simplistic view that consumers must take the responsibility for their health through appropriate selection of good foods and practicing adequate exercise in stead of leading a sedentary life style and this way bad foods will disappear from the market shelves in no time! The situation is becoming increasingly alarming when many foods rich in sugar, fat and salt are being considered an addictive similar to tobacco and alcohol. A global consensus has to emerge regarding the mandatory "healthy" food practices based on to day's knowledge about food and its effect on life style disorders like CVD, Diabetes, Hypertension, Cancer, etc.


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