GoI needs to constitute the FOPL regulations as per WHO standards
Front-of-package-labelling should be seen as primary, necessary part of promoting healthier life-style choices in India. These labels help consumers identify products high in sodium, sugar, total fats
About 15 million Indian children, i.e. 15% of Indian children are obese. That is the second highest number after China. Meanwhile, over 45 million children in India are stunted or underdeveloped, which is a third of all stunted children worldwide. In India, almost half of all deaths among children under 5 are a result of under nutrition.
It is also a fact that many children and youths consume packaged food on a daily basis. The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers that front-of-pack labelling (FOPL) is a form of supplementary nutrition information which serves as an important policy implementation tool to promote healthy diets through facilitating the consumers’ understanding of the nutritional values of the food and making healthier food choices and drive reformulation by the food industry.
Given the gravity of situation, the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) is continuously advocating for the adoption of evidence-based nutrition standards and consumer friendly warning labels on all processed and packaged foods and drinks as per WHO standards in order to ensure a healthy future for children in India. PVCHR Founder and Convener, Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, wrote to Chairman and Members of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in case no. 4227/90/0/2021 requesting a simple, explanatory and mandatory Front-of-Pack Label (FOPL) as per WHO standards so that the complete information about the contents is printed in front, not on the back of the packet.
Considering the seriousness of the matter, the matter was referred to the Full Bench of the Hon'ble NHRC on the petition of the PVCHR. The case number 4227/90/0/2021 was filed with NHRC, and the First Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and later to the Secretary of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and the CEO of the Food Safety and Standards Authority was required to report to the NHRC within eight weeks.
However, it has been instructed to submit the report. The full bench of the NHRC intervenes in an important matter.
Keeping in mind the health of children and women, the Government of India should constitute the FOPL regulations as per WHO standards, and for this, the PVCHR functionaries are constantly discussing with the elected representatives of the government, industry associations, doctors and politicians and organizing discussions and it’s also getting widespread support.
What is FOPL?
FOPL is similar to the warnings printed on cigarettes and other tobacco products. FOPL requires mandatory nutrient declarations on food packages. The FOPL system should be aligned with national public health and nutrition policies and food regulations following the WHO guidelines. Several countries including Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Spain, Sweden and UK either have mandatory or voluntary FOPL schemes in place. It has been found that such labelling impacts shifting diet patterns and reduces diet related cancer risk.
Front-of-package-labelling should be seen as a primary and necessary part of promoting healthier life-style choices in India. These labels help consumers to identify products high in sodium, sugar, total fats that are important nutrients associated with Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).