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India’s food safety regulator wants higher tax on packaged food, sweetened drinks

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) also wants a blanket ban on advertising of junk foods and beverages on children’s channels and content for children across television, websites and social media.
UPDATED ON JUL 03, 2017 03:58 PM IST

Packaged junk food may soon cost more with India’s top food regulatory authority recommending additional tax on processed food and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) also wants a blanket ban on advertising of junk foods and beverages on children’s channels and content for children across television, websites and social media.

“Imposing additional tax on the purchase of commodities such as pre-packaged foods with high salt and fat content, sugar sweetened beveragesetc can be a pragmatic approach to reduce their intake,” said the FSSAI’s report on ‘Consumption of Fat, Sugar and Salt (FSS) and its health effects on India’s population’.

“Advertisement ban for foods high in FSS during children TV shows or kids TV channels is urged. In fact, we should progress towards a total ban law as being done in a few other countries like Chile,” recommended the 11 members panel of experts from medicine, nutrition, dietetics and medical research in the report, which suggests ways to cut unhealthy food consumption and lower the rising burden of lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

The report suggests celebrity endorsements of unhealthy foods discouraged and recommends having a balanced diet with around 60-70 per cent of total calories from carbohydrates, 10-12 per cent from protein and 20-30 per cent from fat.

Higher tax on unhealthy food and beverages has been a longstanding demand of public health experts. “Modelling studies on how eating less junk food lowers obesity and risk of lifestyle disease such as diabetes, heart disease, and chronic kidney disease, which affect Indians at a younger age than other ethnicities. India must consider taxation on unhealthy foods, restrictions on advertising and appropriate labelling of food to lower consumption across socio-economic groups,” said Dr Anoop Misra, chairman, Fortis C-DOC centres for diabetes, metabolic diseases and endocrinology.

“The money from additional tax on unhealthy foods can be used promote nutrition education in schools and the community,” said Dr Misra, who made these recommendations in a paper for British Medical Journal.

It recommends all food labels must carry total calories, amount of carbohydrates, sugar, fat, protein, sodium, dietary fibre and trans-fat. “A total of 10 per cent of total energy is allowed as added sugars in our daily diet. Simple sugars and refined carbohydrates should be reduced. These come largely from sugar sweetened beverages and processed snacks with high added sugar content,” the report said.

It recommends fats in the form of unsaturated fatty acids (oils that do not solidify at room temperature), especially the long chain mono- and poly unsaturated-fatty acids, should be encouraged in everyday diets was among the recommendations.

The report will be a guideline document for all the stakeholders, including the FSSAI, industry and consumers, in reducing consumption of fat, sugar and salt through processed food products.

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