Alarming reports show that Indian packaged foods are most unhealthy

The Asian Age.

Life, Food

A survey said India has high levels of sugar and saturated fats in its packaged foods.

Packaged foods and drinks from India were also found to be the most energy-dense. (Photo: Representational/Pixabay)

India has ranked lowest in terms of healthiness of packaged foods. A survey conducted of packaged foods and drinks across the globe showed that foods from India are the most energy dense.

The George Institute for Global Health analysed over 4,00,000 thousand products from 12 countries. They were ranked using Australia’s Health Star Rating System. It measures the nutrient levels in each foods such as salt, sugar, saturated fats including protein, calcium and fibre. It then assigns a rating from 1/2 (least healthy) to five (most healthy).

The charts were topped by UK who came in first with a 2.83 rating, followed by USA in second place with 2.82 and Australia in third with 2.81. This study also revealed the alarming levels of sugar, saturated fat and salt in Indian packaged food items.

Packaged foods and drinks from India were also found to be the most energy-dense (kilojoule content 1515 kJ/100 g) and products from South African were found to be the least energy-dense (1044kJ/100 g). India got the lowest Health Star rating of just 2.27 preceded by China with 2.43.

“The results were concerning because packaged foods and drinks are driving a double burden of diet-related diseases in many low- and middle-income countries. Globally we’re all eating more and more processed foods and that’s a concern because our supermarkets' shelves are full of products that are high in bad fats, sugar, and salt and are potentially making us sick," said Elizabeth Dunford, lead author of the study, reported Live Mint.

“Our results show that some countries are doing a better job than others. Unfortunately, it’s the poorer nations that are least able to address the adverse health consequences that have the unhealthiest foods," she said.

This study also indicated that the drinks available in China were some of the healthiest, with an average rating of 2.9 but the packaged foods scored quite low. South Africa had the opposite predicament with food rating being 2.87 and drink being at a very low 1.92. Canada topped the list for unhealthy salt levels in food and UK scored best for sugar content with just 3.8 grams per 100 grams. China’s packaged foods had the most harmful levels of saturated fats as well as the highest average sugar levels at 8.5 grams per 100 grams. India placed second at 7.8 grams of sugar per 100 grams.

“With packaged foods progressively dominating the world’s food supply there is a real cause for concern. Billions of people are now exposed to very unhealthy foods on a daily basis. The obesity crisis is just the first ripple of a tsunami of dietary ill health that is coming for us. We have to find a way that the food industry can profit from selling rational quantities of quality food, rather than deluging us with unhealthy junk. There are few greater priorities for human health," Co-author Professor Bruce Neal, Acting Executive Director of The George Institute, Australia said.

The survey also indicated that the world’s major packaged food and drink manufacturers have now signed up to the International Food and Beverage Alliance. These companies have pledged to reduce salt, sugar and saturated fat levels in their products.

“The study is a wake-up call for countries like India where the packaged food industry is burgeoning and expanding its reach to small towns and villages. Policymakers and the food industry needs to work together to reformulate products to reduce the ever increasing risk of obesity and its consequences," said Vivekanand Jha, Executive Director of the George Institute for Global Health, India.