Relevance: GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Key phrases: Health Star Rating, FSSAI, lifestyle diseases, MoHFW, Front-of-Pack (FoP) Labelling, Centre for Science and Environment, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Non- Communicable Diseases.
Why in News?
- Packaged food products in India will soon be labelled with an official health star rating (HSR), according to Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
- The rating will be the first such in India, a country burdened with lifestyle diseases, and is aimed at guiding consumers to opt for healthy food. The HSR format ranks a packaged food item based on salt, sugar, and fat content and the rating will be printed on the front of the package.
- The FSSAI, a body under the ministry of health and family welfare (MoHFW) had directed IIM-A to conduct a large-scale survey to analyse major FoP Labelling models that are available across the world and identify one which is easy to understand and can induce behaviour change among Indian consumers. In India, packaged food has had back-of-package (BOP) nutrient information in detail but no FoP Labelling, which, as global experience suggests, has the ability to nudge healthy consumption behaviour with respect to packaged food.
- Following the report, the FSSAI has sought feedback from industry associations for evaluation by a scientific panel so that the HSR model can be included in the draft regulation formulated by the government.
- The food regulator has exempted milk and dairy products from the proposed FoP Labelling, as they were in the earlier FSSAI draft notified in 2019. Also, the scientific panel has recommended voluntary implementation of FoP Labelling from 2023 and a transition period of four years for making it mandatory.
What are Health Star Ratings?
- Food product packaging is often confusing or distracting, particularly when there are so many different options available on supermarket shelves. This can make it hard to understand the nutritional value of products.
- The Health Star Rating system is a front of pack labelling system which helps you quickly and easily compare the nutrition of similar products that you typically see in the same part of the shop. The system provides a rating from a half to five stars – the more stars, the healthier the choice. When looking for the stars, remember that they are meant to provide a comparison within similar product categories only. For example, the system helps choose between one breakfast cereal and another, not between yoghurt and pasta sauce.
Key points about Health Star Ratings:
- Packaged foods will have a number of stars displayed on them which will indicate whether the item is healthy or unhealthy. This ‘health start’ display on the package will help customers ascertain whether the packaged food is harmful or healthy.
- The star rating will be determined by the amount of fats, sugar, and salt in the food item.
- The system will be similar to the one that is being used by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency for assessing the energy efficiency in electrical devices.
- The ratings will be placed in front of the packets as studies show that this method is much more effective towards affecting the choice of the consumer.
Why FSSAI want to adopt Health Start Rating?
- This move follows a report by the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A) on the impact of front-of-the-pack labelling for packaged and processed foods. The study endorsed the HSR format as the best suited to Indians in helping to choose healthier packaged food items under a new policy on Front of Packaging Labelling (FoPL).
- IIM-A has recommended HSR as the most preferred format by Indian consumers under proposed FoPL in India. This national survey by IIM-A is the voice of more than 20,000 people across the country and none of the countries in the world has surveyed people at such a large scale. FoPL will bring a transformational reform in the society as it will encourage healthy eating. It will also help to reduce the burden of Non- Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the country.
- The system is not intended to replace general dietary advice, such as that provided by the FSSAI Guidelines, which recommend eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutritious foods every day.
- A high star rating doesn’t necessarily mean the product provides for a complete, balanced diet and should replace items from other core food groups or be eaten to excess.
- In addition, many healthy foods, like fresh fruit and vegetables and lean meats, are not generally packaged and will not display or will have a Health Star Rating. Fresh fruit and vegetables are now eligible to display a 5 star health rating.
- Instead of increasing packaging, food retailers are encouraged to use posters, shelf wobblers or other means to display the Health Star Rating
Source: Live Mint
Q. Discuss the role of Health Star Rating to reduce the burden of Non- Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the country. Comment. (250words).