Poor, helpless, and exposed to toxic, ultra-processed food

Poor, helpless, and exposed to toxic, ultra-processed food

According to a recent research, economically disadvantaged and marginalized people in India consume a lot of packaged and ultra-processed food.

Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) and PIPAL's report, "Children Nutrition and Ultra-Processed Food," has urged for immediate regulatory changes to increase market availability of healthier foods and institute explicit warnings on packaged goods to help people make informed decisions.

This study was done in the districts of Varanasi and Gaya in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar by PIPAL (People's Initiative for Participatory Action on Food Labeling), a nationwide grassroots movement towards a better food system.

More than 90% of respondents who were asked about their intake of packaged and ultra-processed food had a daily income of less than Rs 400, and 40% are members of the underprivileged Musahar group.

The majority of survey participants are illiterate. According to the report, Dalit households spend 94% of their money on food, with roughly 10% to 15% going toward ultra-processed and packaged items including chocolates, fizzy beverages, jellies, biscuits, and chips. They spend a pitiful 1.3% and 0.5%, respectively, on healthcare and education.

Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, founder and CEO of People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) and one of the survey's authors, said this when the study was released in this location on Thursday: "Adverse impact of ultra-processed food and beverages is even more pronounced on children who are stunted or have received inadequate nutrition early in their life."

They may have a greater adult risk of NCDs and are more prone to obesity. Making unambiguous warnings about excessive level of sugar, salt, and saturated fat required on the front of all packaged foods would be the greatest policy response for a nation that suffers from the twin burden of malnutrition, he added.

In India, there are over 45 million stunted children and 15 million obese children. Moreover, adult obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular illnesses are rife there. With NCDs accounting for 65% of fatalities each year, India is on the verge of a diet-related health disaster. The increased use of ultra-processed foods with high quantities of sugar, salt, and saturated fats is thought by experts to be a major risk factor for poor nutrition.

"Ultra-processed meals and beverages are comparatively inexpensive and ready-to-eat, which saves money and time for daily wage workers," said senior BJP politician and Rajya Sabha member Ashok Bajpai. This significant research has shown that Dalit households or those from lower socioeconomic strata are depending more and more on these readily available foods without realizing the detrimental effects it has on their health.

Imran Pratapgarhi, a member of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha, stated: "A member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health should provide his whole support for introducing the warning label for the improvement of Women and Child health."

"In UP, particularly in Varanasi, ready to eat or ready to heat ultra-processed food, is quickly becoming the diet of choice for the migrant labor who neither have time nor resources for prepared meals," noted BJP MP from Machhlishahr BP Saroj.

Saroj, a member of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries' Consultative Committee, added that the time is right for a policy tool that can enable people to make healthier decisions and save lives.

Research from India and other countries has shown that the most effective marketing strategy is a straightforward front-of-pack label that alerts consumers about dangerous components. We support FSSAI and look forward to a FOPL rule that benefits the nation's citizens. He said that it was urgently necessary.

With 34 million tons in annual sales, India is among the top countries worldwide in the food and beverage sector. According to Euromonitor Data's predictions, India will surpass China and the United States to become the third-largest global market for packaged foods by 2020.