CERC calls for warning symbols on unhealthy foods at the UNFSS PRE-SUMMIT ROUNDTABLE
- Posted by CERC India
- Posted in Press Releases
12th August 2021
Food systems in South Asia are in urgent need of decisive action. The COVID-19 pandemic has weakened progress on food security and malnutrition. The 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit is a platform for policy advocates to urge Governments to take a decisive step towards global food systems transformation.
Taking this opportunity, consumer organisations from India and Bangladesh, including Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC), along with Consumers International, UK, came together to deliberate on the policy recommendations they would want to make to the Government of both the countries for promoting healthy and sustainable diets. The detailed discussions and inputs by the consumer organisations were compiled and a short report and a call for action statement was prepared with the aim of ensuring that commitments to meaningful change are made by both governments. The statement and report was launched at the affiliated session ‘Consumer Voices on the Future of Food’ as part of the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit.
CERC made a strong case for ensuring Front-of-Pack Warning Symbol that warns consumers about the food being unhealthy and encourages them to turn towards healthier food choices. A warning symbol that indicates that the food is high on either Fat, Salt or Sugar (presence of even one nutrient being more than the threshold limit would warrant a warning symbol) would immediately catch the consumer’s attention and would be easily interpreted even by illiterate people. Such a symbol would discourage consumption of foods high in salt, sugar and fat which – are the main causes of Non-Communicable Diseases and obesity, a major health concern for India.
Ms Anusha Iyer, Advocacy Officer from CERC said at the Pre-Summit session “A large consumer section in India consists of the urban and rural poor who also have very low literacy levels. Their well-being, health and safety should be the primary focus of any policy change that India plans. Consumers need to be warned about what not to eat rather than promoting what to eat. Labels are one way to do so. Many consumers cannot read and understand the label. A warning symbol is the answer to fight such challenges with respect to nutrition and health. More so because food labels and advertisements most often promote lifestyle eating rather than healthy eating, and mislead rather than inform.”
This warning symbol, aimed at turning people towards healthier food habits, needs to be easy to understand and something that does not need a huge education campaign to be undertaken for being effective. Adoption of such a warning symbol would also motivate the food industry to be more responsible towards making their products healthier.
Leading Consumer Organisations like Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG), Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), Consumer Voice, and Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP) from India as well as the Consumers Association of Bangladesh were the other participants in the pre-summit meetings and gave their recommendations. Consumers International is the membership organisation for over 200 consumer groups across more than 100 countries.
The statement and report expanded on recommendations, split into six key areas – Consumer Information, Marketing and Advertising, Food Standards, Fiscal Policy, Public Procurement and distribution, Supply Chain Investment. These will be submitted to the national UNFSS Conveners for each country, and promoted more widely as a set of consumer-backed solutions for food systems change, with the aim of ensuring that these policy recommendations are included in the commitments made by both governments at the summit.
The UN Food Systems Summit is scheduled for September 2021
For more information please contact Anusha Iyer 9825005612