Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 18th 2017 Contents A24 body & soul
guardian.co.tt Saturday, March 18, 2017
Food, drink giants plot
fightback in India
Alarmed by rising rates of obesity and diabetes,
India plans to frame draft rules within a month
requiring manufacturers to display the fat, sugar
and salt content of products on packaging. It is
also considering a nationwide "fat tax" for so-
called "junk foods", a senior government official
said, although that is unlikely to be rolled out in
the near term.
Reacting to this, several food and drink multinationals
and trade groups met in recent weeks to discuss how to
lobby more effectively against Indian proposals for higher
taxes and stricter labeling rules on fatty or sugary foods,
sources familiar with the talks said.
According to officials, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's
administration has begun to look closely at policy propos-
als under discussion since at least 2015, raising concerns
over the possible impact on the US$57 billion sector.
Last month, executives from companies including
PepsiCo, Nestle and Indian consumer firm ITC met trade
groups in New Delhi to coordinate efforts and urge the
government to resist pressure from health advocates,
according to an industry source aware of the meeting.
The attendees, who felt their efforts to push back had
been too piecemeal, talked about forming a core group
to unify their message when engaging the government,
the source said.
PepsiCo and Nestle in India did not comment direct-
ly on the meeting or its outcome. ITC did not respond
to requests for comment. Trade group All India Food
Processors' Association (AIFPA), whose members range
from street vendors to global conglomerates, said two
industry-wide meetings were held in February. Its mem-
bers, who also discussed ways to offer more nutritious
products, plan to send a joint representation to the gov-
ernment and approach health and food officials to express
concerns about stringent regulations.
The stakes are high for companies like PepsiCo, Co-
ca-Cola, Nestle and McDonald's, which have collectively
committed billions of dollars to expand in the world's
fastest growing major economy.
India's carbonated drinks sector is estimated to grow
an average 3.7 per cent annually between 2017 and 2021,
while the packaged food sector will grow by eight per
cent a year during the same period, Euromonitor In-
Government pressure comes in various forms.
Modi recently told PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi that
her company needed to focus more on public health,
an aide to the prime minister said. Separately, the prime
minister's office asked PepsiCo to outline how it would
reduce sugar in beverages sold in India, the aide added.
PepsiCo did not comment on those remarks by Modi
and his office.
A Coca-Cola India representative referred questions
on proposed regulatory changes to the Indian Bever-
age Association, which said their impact was "under
Nestle corporate affairs executive Sanjay Khajuria said
the company was "working to improve the nutrient pro-
file" of their products.
The CEO of the Food Safety and Standards Authori-
ty of India (FSSAI), Pawan Kumar Agarwal, welcomed
industry concerns about tougher rules.
"It is a good thing if it helps in providing healthier
options," he told Reuters in an interview.
The number of obese men and women in India rose
to about 30 million by 2014 from 1.2 million in 1975, ac-
cording to a study by British medical journal The Lancet,
although the comparative figure for China was around
Concerns about the health effects of fast food and soda
drinks have been growing globally in recent years. Mexico
imposed higher taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, for
example, while South Korea placed television advertising
restrictions on specific food items. But India has been
slow to finalise rules on products high in fat, sugar and
salt, whose consumption health advocates say urgently
needs to be checked to safeguard public health.
One government official said the regulator was delib-
A vendor waits for customers at his shop New Delhi, India, March 6, 2017.
erating whether disclosures about the nutritional value
of food should be placed on the front of packages.
Another labeling proposal under review was a "traffic
light" system, where red, yellow and green colours de-
pict nutritional value, similar to one used in the United
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