In today’s Finshots, we talk about the Indian Nutrition Rating (INR) and the debate surrounding it.
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Let’s be honest. We all like to snack on snacks from time to time. It can be a packet of instant noodles, popcorn, or a bag of potato chips. It’s a good way to manage your cravings.
And the Indians are getting addicted to this stuff. According to a survey by Mondelez International and The Harris Poll, 8 out of 10 Indians surveyed said they replaced whole meals with snacks. And not just any kind of snacks. Mainly packaged foods. And according to Euromonitor, it appears that the sale of ultra-processed food in India has tripled from 2kg per capita in 2005 to 6kg in 2019. And it is expected to reach 8kg by 2024.
But we all know that’s not a healthy alternative.
Processed foods lead to obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular problems. It can make an entire population sick and unhealthy. So what do you do about it?
Well, it looks like the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) has a new formula – A star rating stuck on the front of food and snack packets telling you exactly how healthy or unhealthy the product is. .
Now, we’ve talked about star ratings in the past when describing the Australian Health Star Rating System, a rather authoritative guide to grading edibles. In their own words —
The Health Star Rating system is based on comparing products in similar food categories and allows us to quickly compare the overall nutrient profile of foods in that category. For example, we can compare one breakfast cereal with another, a muesli bar with another, or a spreadable margarine with another… Health Star Ratings can help you choose between similar products that are usually presented together (for example, wholemeal bread and white bread).
The number of stars will vary between half a star and 5 stars. And it takes into account various nutritional information to determine what deserves a higher rating and what does not. According to the Australian guide at least, a health score of 3.5 or less is generally considered unhealthy and therefore you can make a reasonable assessment of the quality of the food you eat.
And since the odds will be labeled right in front, that should serve as a helpful guide, right?
Well, not everyone thinks so. In particular the people of the Nutrition Advocacy for Public Interest (NAPi).
In March, they wrote to the Ministry of Health and public policy think tank Niti Aayog about the matter. And they highlighted one key thing.
Their claim is that it is easy to manipulate the star rating. For example, a chocolate bar high in sugar could add nuts and boost its rating. They could also replace sugar with other alternative sweeteners and create a product that ranks higher.
In fact, some doctors even suggest that a one-star rating might create a positive perception. The consumer might think, “Hey, at least there is something good and not everything is bad. »
What if the star system had worked elsewhere? Wouldn’t it be useful to know that?
Well they tried it in Australia and let’s just say it didn’t quite work.
Mark Lawrence, professor of public health nutrition at Deakin University in Australia, told The Ken that 73% of ultra-processed foods on supermarket shelves had ratings of 2.5 stars or better. Indeed, said Lawrence, who has studied the implementation of star ratings, the ratings have conveyed nothing of value – nutritionally – to the consumer. [what does a 1.5 star really tell you about the actual sugar content?].
In Australia, products like Diet Coke (laden with artificial sweeteners) and “sugar-free” gummies received four and five stars respectively, while a packet of olives received one star and free-range eggs received four stars.
So you can understand why some people aren’t happy with the new recommendation. But if a star-based system doesn’t work, what would work, you ask?
Specifically, color-coded symbols with interpretive text (e.g. vegetarian and non-vegetarian symbols). In fact, the country’s food regulator, the FSSAI, released a draft document in 2018, with the aim of revising food labeling and display guidelines. And there were some pretty solid suggestions.
For example, consider the recommendation on color coding certain basic nutritional information – If a serving contained sugar, salt or fat above a specified threshold (say 30% of the recommended daily intake) , then a red block would indicate to consumers that they are not necessarily making a healthy choice. After all, if you’re consuming a significant portion of your recommended daily sugar intake with just one candy bar, you should know in advance that you’re making that choice. In fact, the food regulator even noted that they “may introduce a color coding system in addition to marking foods as ‘red’ within specified limits from time to time.” Perhaps alluding to the fact that the blocks can be colored red, orange and green, depending on the health risk they pose.
Also, guess what? When Chilean regulators introduced a similar system in the country, they found very optimistic results. One year after the implementation of the alert system, “per capita consumption of soft drinks [stuff such as Pepsi and Coke] reduced by 24.9% during the first evaluation”.
So yeah, maybe that’s what we really need if we’re trying to shed our bad snacking habits.
For now, however, the FSSAI is still pushing the star-based system. Will this change? We do not know.
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#star #rating #Chips #Chocolates