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Consumer orgns slam reports claiming Health Star Label on pkgd foods soon
Saturday, 12 March, 2022, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi
Consumer organisations have questioned the ‘reports’ claiming India soon to have 'Health Star Label' on packaged foods as regulated by FSSAI, and stated that the consultative group made by the food authority was yet to come to a conclusion.

Representatives of the various consumer organisations including Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), Jaipur; Consumer Voice, New Delhi; and Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG), Chennai, who are also part of the Front of the Pack Label stakeholder group of FSSAI issued a joint statement questioning the motive of the ‘vested interest’ for publishing of such reports that the country was moving ahead with the HSR label when nothing was finalised.

The statement reads, “The group of stakeholders identified and headed by the regulator itself on Front of Package Labelling are yet to come to any final conclusion and the discussions are still going on with disagreements still remaining to be addressed”.

All three consumer organisations pointed out that the HSR label, which IIM-A study recommends, was adopted in Australia and New Zealand and both countries’ experience shows a disappointing performance.

The statement added that research studies have proved that the entire HSR system was highly flawed as unhealthy products still able to get a high score because the rating is based on the overall nutritional value, and the inclusion of healthy ingredients like fibre, protein and vitamins cancel out the unhealthy ingredients like sugar, saturated fats and salt. Such a label only confuses the consumer and fails to reveal the healthiest food option.

George Cheriyan, director, CUTS International, and a member of Food Authority (FSSAI), as a special invitee, has said that once a final decision was taken during stakeholder consultation it still needs to be forwarded to the scientific panel, which then makes recommendation followed by a legal procedure for framing of regulations.

Ashim Sanyal, COO and secretary, Consumer VOICE and a member of the Central Advisory Committee of FSSAI, pointed out how the discussion in the FSSAI stakeholder meeting with regard to bestowing almost five year long period for the industries to shift from voluntary label to mandatory label sounds ridiculous.

Saroja Sundaram, ED, Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG), said that the 'star labels'  are not effective enough to make the consumer aware about the product.

The consumer organisations opined that it’s not prudent on the part of FSSAI to take such an important regulatory decision just based on a single study, FSSAI needs to give equally or even more importance to the recent findings of the medical fraternity of AIIMS institutions who released a study report on 25th February, which suggests clearly that a warning label was the most suitable in an Indian context as it deters consumers from consuming packaged food that are high in salt, sugar and fats.

“The warning label has also been proved to be very effective in successfully modifying the consumers' eating habit in every country in which the label has been implemented till date and has never failed in any of the countries where it is implemented,” the statement added.
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