Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thought for Food!

Had thought of writing this earlier as well but yesterday’s news of Superme Court’s direction to Food Safety & Standards authority made me write this now http://bit.ly/hmCzE . I remember we used to play cricket on the streets. When a team bats first one / two member of the team will be the umpire as the other team has to field. And we all know how faithful the umpire’s would be. The only consoling part in that was both the team had a chance to have their turns of doing the referral part. The point of including agents from food industry in the scientific panels in fact looked very similar to the way we used to appoint the umpire!. It’s glad news that our esteemed SC brought this up.

I have been quite observing the advertisement industry over a period of time, I get to see tons of new advertisements basically targeting the minds of children and parents, repetitively arguing on health and nutrition and emphasizing their product fulfill / is the solution to anyone’s need!. We have earlier seen a company makes a food product and the other company produces another one as a competition to this and they advertise both are the best and so on… but now a day’s the same company makes multiple food products and educates us on nutrition and health and that too at the end states that this has been certified by Indian Medical Association, Indian Doctor’s Council. As per these advertisement and the doctors recommendations at the end of the advertisement, my basic mind analyzes and feels that a child between the age of 4 and 8 can survive with 2 glasses of complain / horlicks / boost / _________ [fill in the drink which you likeJ] and 2 biscuits made by HLL / ITC / P&G / Britannia / __________ [fill in your favorite company] as they contain all the essential proteins, vitamins, minerals and nutritions.

This is a serious threat!, where they produce false information [false certified information to be precise]. Children after watching these advertisements start to endorse a brand over a period of time. [I’d argue that we should not let children watch all these, but how many of the parents take care of that] Most of the food products don’t reveal their product information at all and seriously there are no ways in our country to access those. I have never understood what does permitted colors, permitted favors or permitted edible oil means?. We can still go ahead and say that we trust these companies make food products for the benefit of improving children health and nutrition, but none of their histories add values to it!. We’ve heard stories of violation of act on every possible industry.

There used to be a chapter of lesson on our school books on food adulteration, which some where helped us to understand the hidden logics of making profit. We used to [at least I] be aware and catch if any of our food being adulterated by local vendors because they packed things in front of us. Now there is no ways for me or you to know how things are made. Now all we know is two glasses of milk is equivalent to one packet of milk bikis. Thanda matlab coca cola… and so on!...

Overall what I could gather is during my childhood days, most of the food products were a luxury and over a period of time these have now being advertised as a need!. All I could now gather is a statement of a friend in her status “Why would anyone advertise a product which is a need!”. With the SC’s decision on suggesting an umpire who doesn’t belong to the same team which is playing, we could just hope that the regulations will be not just benefiting the multi nationals!.

5 comments:

apk said...

Nice post. Enjoyed reading it.
Unfortunately many products are being endorsed by IMA/IDA.
What is really sad is that the endorsement are against recommendations provided by doctors.

I had a first-hand experience when we went to doctor for treatment and when we mentioned that we took this pill and its well advertised and ad says its recommended by IMA, the doctor said the medicine is totally unsafe

AND DOCTORS HAVE TIME AND AGAIN COMPLAINED to IMA That the MEDICINE IS NOT GOOD.

But after an year or so I still see the advertisement on TV..


I am just afraid our health & food industry might suffer from quite a few a bad things US is suffering from.

Bala said...

selva! i cnt totaly agree with yo thnkng. Sory2say ths. Bt i dnt undrstnd y ru against advertisments? Irrespctv of fud prodcts, If u feel sm ads r exageratng r evn if they r gvng false prmses as u said, u got al ryts 2 step up a consumer forum. Also regard 2 food prod adultratn, its nt tat simplr 4 a cmpany 2 intro a brand prodct n d markt. It requires a lot of 4malities 2 undrgo. Its nt jst like our PERIYALALA HALWA thng!!

Taruna said...

Hullo selva sir...nice thot bt i wud agree more wid Bala..its nt so easy to mk any claims and get away...while hvng personally analysed many beverage pdts (will nt disclose he brands)I agree that nt all these r true bt these companies (at least food n bev companies) are alwys under threat of questioning by ne fd inspector n if found guilty its a big hit...i guess wht v need is a good consumer education n awareness program to mk thm realise tht nt all tht is advertised is completely true hence its imp to act responsibly n sensibly b4 judging the merits or demirits of ne pdt...bt yes the issue needs to b addressed n at the earliest considering the rate at which theses 'beneficial/functional/healthy' etc etc etc pdts r being launched...evry1 associated with certifications/endorsements/claims shud b sensitive to the fact tht eventually the pdt is meant 4 human consumption/use n hence shud nt b aimed at being sold to generate revenues only at the cost of consumer's health and wealth...

Sahana said...

Selva, enjoyed reading your take on the SC judgment and agree with you. I only recently had to analyse the PFA trying to see whether "fortified mineral water" as the Company puts it, would fall foul of PFA. The legislation itself is very interesting and I must say scary, because of the loopholes that exists for bigger fish to get away with a lot in the name of "safe food". Also agree that not just the mechanism which needs to be questioned, like in the SC judgment, but also a number of so called regulatory provisions.

apk said...

@Bala - What is the backlog we have in consumer forum?

For eg say, If there are thousands of problems, which one would you report to consumer forum?

Similarly if there are thousands of issues reported, which one would be acted upon by consumer forum?

When Indian Medical Association forms a tie-up with various industries to promote products for the sake of getting money from endorsements, when they should be actually playing the role of regulatory mechanism, what can you expect? The Indian Govt had infact criticized Indian medical Association for such endorsements..

BTW, when I came across issues with malpractices, I have made a couple of visits to "Meterology Department" in Bangalore. I started from lower-officers and went till Assistant Commissioner (escalating issue to next higher level officer when I saw that issues was not being addressed).
The end result was that i gave up after making multiple visits to the department and when the ASSISTANT COMISSIONER mentioned below:

1. WE SEE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF SUCH MALPRACTICES ACROSS BANGALORE. HOW CAN A DEPT WITH LIMITED STAFF ACT UPON ALL OF THEM.

2. EVEN IF WE TAKE ACTION, THE PENALITY IS Rs. 200 WHICH THEY WILL HAPPILY PAY, BECAUSE THEY DONT LOSE MUCH HERE. WE CAN TAKE THEM TO COURT ONLY AFTER THEY FAIL TO CORRECT THEMSELVES AFTER 2 SUCH PENALITIES..

As a consumer (general public) who has limited time/resources that he can spend , what do you think he can do?

At the end of the day, regulatory mechanisms should be more stringent and people should exhibit higher moral values.
They should not be guided material wealth.. The industry should not be guided just by YOY profit growth at expense of values.