Health experts demand pictorial, health warnings on junk food


New Delhi, Jan 29: After tobacco products, even junk food products may have pictorial warnings, if a proposal by health experts is accepted by the government.

Health experts have demanded pictorial and health warnings on junk food and detailed information for consumers about what goes into the food they buy and the effect it can have on their health.

A panel of experts formed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), comprising doctors from AIIMS, experts from Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and dieticians from National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad have proposed pictorial warnings on fast and junk food.

The panel was constituted six months ago to look at the prevalence and data on consumption of high fat, sugar and salt and make recommendations. The final report will be out in February.

“We have recommended pictorial warnings on junk foods like chips, colas, pizzas, burgers or health warnings saying that this product contain fat and salt in excess of what is recommended or even a picture of liver may be on pack indicating that consuming them may led to fatty liver in children and adults,” said Dr Vandana Jain, Additional Professor in the Department of Paediatrics at AIIMS, who is also a member of the panel.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), effective population-based childhood obesity prevention strategies include restrictions on marketing of unhealthy food (biscuits and potato chips, for instance) and non-alcoholic beverages (soft/carbonated drinks) to children.

Children having fatty liver are at risk of liver cirrhosis and end stage liver disease and may require liver transplantation later in their life. Obese children also experience breathing difficulties, increased risk of fractures, hypertension, insulin resistance and low self esteem.

AIIMS in collaboration with Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have also conducted a study to look at the prevalence of fatty liver in overweight adolescents aged 10 to 15 years.

The study included 220 overweight children, who visited AIIMS’ Paediatric Department with obesity and other related problems. Their parents were also enrolled in the study.

“We conducted blood tests, ultrasounds and other tests and 62.5 per cent of the children were found to have fatty liver and 65 per cent of the mothers had fatty liver while among the fathers, 69 per cent have fatty liver.

“62.5 per cent is a very big number which we never expected. When we began the study we thought may be 40 per cent will have fatty liver because even if we go by adult data, it shows that only 60-65 per cent overweight adults develop fatty liver.

“So we thought children would not have that much, they are at risk and may develop sometime later, but we were surprised to see that many of them already have fatty livers,” Jain said.

She said it was not only because of genetics. As a part of the study, they tested blood samples of 100 more healthy lean adults aged between 40 and 60 years to study the gene connection.

“Parents and child do not just share the genes, they also share the environment, they also share the same lifestyle, same food habits and that is more responsible. So both genes and environment are responsible,” she said.

Fifty per cent of the children had mild fatty liver while the parents had moderate to severe fatty liver.

Twenty per cent children had hypertension and 60 per cent suffered from deranged lipid profile. 10 per cent children also had impaired fasting glucose and insulin resistance was prevalent in 33 per cent which means their chances of developing Type II diabetes are high.

According to experts, those who eat fast food consume more fats, sugars and carbohydrates and fewer fruits and non-starchy vegetables and thus end up consuming high calories. Junk food is also linked to depression, obesity, the early onset of diabetes and heart disease etc.


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