India’s packaged food, drinks least healthy: Oxford study
A global study at the University of Oxford has found that packaged foods and drinks available in India are the least healthy, with high levels of saturated fat, sugar and salt.
The university’s George Institute for Global Health analysed more than 400,000 food and drink products from 12 countries and territories around the world. It found that the United Kingdom tops the charts, with the United States in the second place and Australia third.
The countries were ranked using Australia’s Health Star Rating system – which measures the levels of the nutrients such as energy, salt, sugar, saturated fat as well as protein, calcium and fibre and assigns a star rating from ½ (least healthy) to 5 (the most healthy).
The study published in ‘Obesity Reviews’ found that the UK had the highest rating of 2.83, followed by the US at 2.82 and Australia at 2.81. India got the lowest rating of 2.27 followed by China at 2.43 with Chile coming third from bottom at 2.44.
China’s packaged foods and beverages had the most harmful levels of saturated fat, the study says, adding that China also scored worst for average sugar levels at 8.5 grams per 100 g, India in the second place at 7.3 grams per 100 g.
India’s packaged foods and drinks are most energy dense (kilojoule content 1515 kJ/100 g), the study adds.
Lead author Elizabeth Dunford says: “Globally we’re all eating more and more processed foods and that’s a concern because our supermarkets shelves are full of products that are high in bad fats, sugar and salt and are potentially making us sick”.
“Our results show that some countries are doing a much better job than others. Unfortunately it’s the poorer nations that are least able to address the adverse health consequences that have the unhealthiest foods.”
Co-author Bruce Neal says that packaged foods progressively dominating the world’s food supply means there is real cause for concern: “Billions of people are now exposed to very unhealthy foods on a daily basis. The obesity crisis is just the first ripple of a tsunami of dietary ill health that is coming for us”.
“We have to find a way that the food industry can profit from selling rational quantities of quality food, rather than deluging us with unhealthy junk. There are few greater priorities for human health.’’
The study notes that many of the world’s major food and drink manufacturers have signed up to the International Food and Beverage Alliance, pledging to reduce levels of salt, sugar and harmful fat. It hopes that the findings could provide an impetus for companies to improve the healthiness of their product ranges.