Indian Consumers Reject Nutri-Score and Other Labels

A nationwide study conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Science found warning labels to be the most effective type of front-of-pack labels.

Panaji, India
Mar. 7, 2022
By Paolo DeAndreis
Panaji, India

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New research demon­strates that Indian con­sumers would greatly ben­e­fit from intro­duc­ing front-of-pack labels (FOPL) but pre­fer warn­ing labels instead of com­par­a­tive ones, such as Nutri-Score.

According to new research con­ducted by the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) and its local branches, the best results would be obtained by apply­ing warn­ing labels on the pack­ages.

Research shows that labels which only high­light nutri­ents of con­cern, that is, warn­ing labels, work best to safe­guard pub­lic health.- Umesh Kapil, pres­i­dent, Epidemiological Foundation of India

These warn­ings would inform con­sumers about poten­tially harm­ful con­tents, such as sodium, sugar or sat­u­rated fats.

Similar labels are cur­rently used in sev­eral coun­tries, such as Peru, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay.

See Also:Health Professionals in France Endorse Widespread Adoption of Nutri-Score

The new study was con­ducted in fif­teen Indian states by inter­view­ing con­sumers from diverse back­grounds about nutri­tional logos applied to food pack­ages.

The respon­dents were pre­sented with sev­eral alter­na­tives, such as Nutri-Score or the health-star rat­ing sys­tem devel­oped and used by sev­eral food pro­duc­ers.

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The major­ity of the con­sumers chose the warn­ing logos, the so-called high-in” labels, and 93 per­cent of them said they believe those logos should be made manda­tory on food.

According to the study’s authors, high-in” labels rep­re­sent an effi­cient way of inform­ing con­sumers about the pres­ence of poten­tially unhealthy con­tents of spe­cific prepa­ra­tions.

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The researchers explained that imple­ment­ing this kind of label could pos­i­tively impact the eat­ing habits of the local pop­u­la­tion.

As doc­tors, we are wit­ness­ing the debil­i­tat­ing impact caused by exces­sive con­sump­tion of foods high in salt, sugar and sat­u­rated fats, on the health of this coun­try, par­tic­u­larly on our youth and chil­dren,” said Pradeep Agarwal, the physi­cian at the AIIMS in Rishikesh.

This obser­va­tional sur­vey has ascer­tained which type of label peo­ple find eas­i­est to read and most help­ful in guid­ing their pur­chase deci­sions,” he added.

Every year, 5.8 mil­lion Indians die from car­dio­vas­cu­lar fail­ure, can­cer, dia­betes and uncon­trolled hyper­ten­sion. Current pro­jec­tions esti­mate that 70 mil­lion Indians will have dia­betes by 2024.

The Economic Times of India reported that AIIMS researchers believe that other label­ing plat­forms, such as Nutri-Score or health-star rat­ings, end up send­ing mixed and con­fus­ing sig­nals to con­sumers.”

In their opin­ion, the first stud­ies on the intro­duc­tion of these labels con­ducted in Australia and New Zealand show that those labels have not resulted in any pub­lic health gain.”

Vandana Shah, regional direc­tor of the global health advo­cacy incu­ba­tor, said the front of pack warn­ing labels (FOPWL) effi­ciently inform con­sumers while encour­ag­ing the indus­try to refor­mu­late their prod­ucts.

Studies com­ing from Chile, which was one of the first coun­tries to imple­ment sim­ple warn­ing labels on pack­aged foods, are already show­ing a sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tion in sugar and salt con­sump­tion lead­ing the indus­try to take steps to make their prod­ucts health­ier,” Shah said.

All of this has resulted in no eco­nomic or job losses for the food indus­try, cre­at­ing a win-win sit­u­a­tion for pub­lic health and indus­try,” he added.

According to AIIMS sci­en­tists, broader and more com­plete nutri­tional infor­ma­tion on the labels is not as effec­tive.

Research shows that labels which only high­light nutri­ents of con­cern, that is, warn­ing labels, work best to safe­guard pub­lic health,” said Umesh Kapil, pres­i­dent of the Epidemiological Foundation of India.

It is heart­en­ing to note that Indians have almost unan­i­mously voted high-in warn­ing labels for salt, sugar, fats’ as the eas­i­est to under­stand,” he added. Front of pack warn­ing labels can result in imme­di­ate pub­lic health ben­e­fits – all the more rea­son why India, which accounts for 25 per­cent of the global bur­den of heart dis­ease, can­not afford not to get it right the first time.”

The Heart Foundation of India has already launched a cam­paign to pro­mote the imple­men­ta­tion of FOPWL in the coun­try. Those logos are also glob­ally spon­sored by insti­tu­tions includ­ing the Healthy Caribbean Coalition, the Pan American Health Organization and the United Nations.

According to the Pan American Health Organization, which is cred­ited with the def­i­n­i­tion of the FOPWL nutri­ent pro­file model, front-of-pack­age warn­ing label­ing rep­re­sents one of the key pol­icy tools of a com­pre­hen­sive strat­egy to reg­u­late obe­so­genic envi­ron­ments.”

Scientific evi­dence shows that octa­gon-shaped front-of-pack­age nutri­tional warn­ings indi­cat­ing if a prod­uct is high in’ on one or more crit­i­cal nutri­ents, is the best per­form­ing sys­tem to allow con­sumers to cor­rectly, quickly, and eas­ily iden­tify prod­ucts with unhealthy nutri­tional pro­files,” the orga­ni­za­tion added.

FOPWLs warn con­sumers about the exces­sive pres­ence of a given con­tent in pack­aged food. For exam­ple, on some refined edi­ble fats, con­tain­ers dis­play a black octa­gon read­ing high in fat” or a high in sat­u­rated fats” warn­ing.

On the other hand, Nutri-Score rates foods from the health­i­est Green A” down to the Red E” and allows con­sumers to com­pare dif­fer­ent food items in the same cat­e­gory.

All olive oil grades receive a Yellow C” from Nutri-Score, while most refined edi­ble fats receive an Orange D” or a Red E.”

Currently, Nutri-Score is the front-run­ner among the FOPLs being con­sid­ered by the European Commission for imple­men­ta­tion through­out the European Union.



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