India?s health officials clash on hazards of junk food

WHDay2015MNC junk food causes obesity-related diseases, DGHS; show me the proof, asks food quality regulator

N.B. Nair | Indian Science Journal

New Delhi (ISJ) ? What was meant to be a consultation among different government agencies on ensuring food products healthy, convened by World Health Organsiation, WHO and the National Centre for Disease Control witnessed everyone washing their hands off or clashing on regulating the quality of food products. Dr. Jagdish Prasad, Director General of Health Services in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said, in a globalised era, the food market was thrown open to multinational food chains, which dish out unhealthy junk food ? a primary cause of obesity and related health risks. Dr. Prasad pointed fingers on the Commerce Ministry for giving permissions to these food chains without any regulation or enforcing any standards on their products.

?Obesity is causing so much problems. With globalisation, we have given permission for so many Pizzas, Burgers and so many food product chains, causing so many problems, nobody is realising its harmful effects at the moment. Our country has become the diabetic capital of the world, 6.5% of the population are suffering from diabetics,? warned Dr. Prasad.

CEO of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India Y.S. Malik, the regulatory body on food products, which comes under the Ministry of Health challenged Dr. Prasad and asked him to validate his claims.

Malik Prasad

?I would very much welcome him to make some recommendations and give me the science-based evidence, because I can?t be setting anything on the basis of what ?I feel or you feel?. He should be giving me science-based evidence, data that this is what it is; please do it, I will jump at it,? Malik told Indian Science Journal on the sidelines of the consultation meet. ?The junk food, as we call it, which has high fat, salt or sugar; that?s also safe, if I eat it once in 10 days or month.?

?Ministry of Health requires a deputy prime minister, because it has to carry the burden of many ministries ? from agriculture to consumer affairs to commerce, whose decisions have some bearing on health issues and ultimately the Health Ministry is answerable to it,? lamented Dr. Prasad.

India?s food regulator is in its infancy ? a Central law to set up Food Safety and Standards Authority of India was enacted in 2006, the authority was set up two years later and it started functioning only in August 2011. While the Authority is responsible for setting standards, policy framework and regulatory regime, its enforcement is the responsibility of states and union territories. Malik said, the present human and physical infrastructure is inadequate to enforce food standards across the country.

?Every penny spent on food safety is worth saving every penny spent for healthcare,? felt Malick.

WHO Representative in India Dr. Nata Menabde cautioned, foodborne and waterborne diarrhoeal diseases kill an estimated 2.2 million people every year globally, mostly children. She said, the full burden of foodborne illness in India is still not known as most cases go unreported.

?Surveillance data in the country from 2011-14 shows, foodborne outbreaks, together with acute diarrhoeal diseases, constituted nearly half of all reported outbreaks during this period,? said Dr. Menabde. She said, the slogan for World Health Day 2015 in India is ?From Farm to Plate, Make Food Safe?.

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