Monday, May 20, 2013


Any responsible country will spare no efforts to make the lives of its citizens safe from many dangers lurking around them including unsafe foods. In balancing the citizen's right and his well being, reasonable restrictions will have to be put in place on the former so that the public place becomes more secure for the society in general. In the case of food also every country has a legal frame work within which only food handlers, traders and processors will have to work. Lately there appears to be a bias in favor of the industry players in allowing many foods to be made and marketed by them which are patently unhealthy if the scientific yardsticks are strictly applied. Food products containing unusually high levels of sugar and fat are becoming the mainstay of the industry which is exploiting the weakness of consumers to these palate tingling offerings and over a period of time get hooked on to these life threatening products. The result is the wide spread prevalence of food related human disorders like CVD, Diabetes, Hypertension, Kidney ailments etc and there is almost a unanimous view that to day's Obesity epidemic associated with many wealthy countries is mainly due to over consumption of such foods while physical activity of individuals is declining rapidly. Governments are usually reluctant to displease the industry by mandatory restrictions and depend more on persuasion for voluntary action by the manufacturers for improving the health credentials of the products they make and sell. According to the experience in several countries such voluntary actions agreed to by the industry is often a sham and only lip service is made to mislead the governments as well as the consumers. Here is a critique on this on going "ping pong" game between the government and the industry leaving the consumer a silent spectator!

"The nation's largest food and beverage companies are under renewed attack for what critics see as misleading ads for obesity-promoting foods, especially ads aimed at kids. "The trickery that we're trying to stop includes General Mills' false claims that some of its corn-syrup- drenched products are 'natural,' and Coca-Cola Company's deceptive health claims about its Vitaminwater (which would be better called Sugarwater)," the Center for Science in the Public Interest said Wednesday in a release launching its "Stop the Lying Labels" campaign. Industry representatives counter that they have worked to make their products healthier - just as critics have demanded. "Since 2002, we have introduced more than 20,000 new product choices with fewer calories, reduced fat, sodium and sugar, and more whole grains," the Grocery Manufacturers Association said in an e-mail. "We have voluntarily adopted strict advertising criteria" through the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative."

One of the strategies of war is to give an inch if peace can be brought which may not make any significant loss to the one who makes such a gesture and food industry also seems to be adopting this practice if their promises and performance are closely monitored. There are thousands of products made by the industry which contain very high amounts of sugar, fat and salt and to buy peace with the consumer activists and reluctant government safety agencies either the concentration of these ingredients is marginally reduced or a healthy ingredient is included in the recipe! High pressure promotional campaigns are undertaken to highlight the "sacrifice" made by the industry by changing the "established formula" of the products! It is like adding a drop of "Elixir" to a chalice of poison and claim that the product is better than the original poison!  Probably food industry will learn only when consumers start putting pressure on the industry by banishing unhealthy products from their buying basket and force the government to discipline the industry leaving no option but to make only healthy products. In this endeavor grading of foods based on some scientifically valid scale and printing easily recognizable icons on the label can go a long way to use the consumer force to weed way unhealthy products eventually.

No comments: