A subtle marketing drive is changing our food habits and we do not even know it
A committee on junk food and childhood obesity set up by the Ministry of Women and Child Development has recommended ban on junk foods in school canteens and within 200 meters of school
G V Ramanjaneyulu1 Today, our farming and food is full of toxins and synthetic substances in the name of ‘modern agriculture’ and a thrust to increase yields at any cost. The cumulative and synergistic effects of all these products cannot even be estimated by the producers and users. Hundreds of pesticides have been registered in the country over the years even as the government takes years to ban or restrict a handful of chemicals every decade or so.
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is assessing the impacts of pesticides and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) on bee health. A task force under coordination of Emerging Risks Unit (ERU) of EFSA submitted its inventory on its activities on bees on October 30, 2012.
In a bid to modernize the food safety system in the country, the Canadian Government has adopted new food safety Act. The new Act named ‘The Safe Food for Canadians Act’ came into force from November 26, 2012. It will bring all food safety concerns under one umbrella. Earlier food safety in Canada was being regulated under different Acts like Canada Agricultural Products Act, the Fish Inspection Act, the Meat Inspection Act, and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act.
Food Safety and Standards Regulations came into force in August 2011. It was expected to overhaul the food safety scenario in India. After a year, we wanted to see how much it has delivered. Going through the maximum residue limits (MRLs) of pesticides in the ‘Toxins, Contaminants and Residues’ part of the regulations we found that it was very similar to the earlier version in Prevention of Food Adulteration Act. It prompted us to look for the overall scenario of pesticide regulations from a food safety perspective. What we found was far from satisfactory.
The US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), has come up with guidelines that asks drug manufacturers to voluntarily limit the use of certain antibiotics in animal feed. The FDA has asked the drug manufacturers to limit use of 200 antibiotics as growth promoters and keep them only for therapeutic purposes. The companies adopting this recommendation will have to revise their product labels to reflect the change.
Junk food is junk by its very definition. But how bad is it and what is it that companies do not tell people about this food? This is what the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) laboratory checked. The results were both predictable and alarming. What was equally predictable was the response of big food companies and their spokespersons—denials and dismissals. But they are missing the point.
The Delhi High Court has given the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) a six month period to come out with guidelines on implementing rules to ban junk food in and around schools. The two judge bench gave the order on January 11. The next hearing is scheduled for July 25.
Round Table organised by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) brings together top doctors, educationists and civil society representatives