Health Minister Anbu-mani Ramadoss believes that giving consumers information about what they are eating will help them make healthy food choices.
“Nutrition labels (which become compulsory for all processed food from March 19) will help people keep track of their nutritional intake. Even people aware about what they eat do not realise how much more fat, sugar, salt and calories they consume in processed foods as compared to freshly-prepared food,” he said.
“Processed foods high in calories, fat, salt and sugar and low in nutrients are linked to a clutch of health problems such as childhood obesity, high blood pressure, nutritional deficiencies, causing conditions such as anaemia and osteoporosis, and raising the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even some cancers,” said Dr Anoop Misra, director of the department of diabetes and metabolic diseases, Fortis Hospitals.
But detailed labelling is not enough, said Misra.
“We also need to educate consumers about what they should and should not eat,” said Misra. “When food labelling was made mandatory in the US, people avoided things high in fat but ate a lot of carbohydrates, leading to an obesity epidemic.” To make an impact on public health, he recommends an awareness campaign reinforcing that fresh food is the healthiest and a balanced diet is the key to good health.