ICMR-NIN Propose New Guidelines About Sugar Content In Packaged Food & Drinks
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Fresh in the updates issued by the ICMR-NIN with regards to public health, the new guidelines stating that manufacturers should reduce the levels of sugar used in packaged food and drinks, is all set to replace the 13-year-old guidelines which capped the calorie threshold for food. The updated rules, which has sent beverage makers into a tizzy, raises concerns about the harmful effects of soft drinks, ice creams and breakfast cereals due to the alarming sugar content in the products. Following the recent controversy undergone by Nestle where allegations of high sugar levels in baby food were spotlighted, the Union Health Ministry directed the FSSAI to introduce norms regarding warnings on food packaging labels – similar to those issued on cigarette packs.

Due to growing evidence backing that increased sugar consumption could lead to various types of cancer of the breast, prostate and colorectal, the ICMR rules suggest that conscious consumption and abstinence of packaged food and beverages could help decrease the risk. While industry stakeholders in food packaging lashed against the ‘impracticality’ of the new rules, they have also mentioned that the formulation of many food products might change as a result. While the threshold for sugar has been calculated at approximately 5 per cent energy from added sugar, and not exceeding 10 per cent energy from total sugar for solid foods, the threshold for sugar in packaged drinks has been calculated at approximately 10 per cent energy from added sugar, and not exceeding 30 per cent energy from total sugar (including naturally present sugar in fruit juices/milk, etc.

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Food companies are planning to make joint presentations to the ICMR-NIN in a bid to propose revisions with the updated guidelines. In what seems to be a first for India, clearly defining terms will allow regulators and researchers to provide citizens with the knowledge of what they consume. Whether the new set of guidelines will be put in motion or further revised to appease to manufacturers, remains to be seen. Watch this space for more.