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International experts call for food label changes in India

The Global Health Advocacy Incubator’s advocacy experience and treasure trove of connections can serve as a real asset to health programs anywhere. Take our work on trans fats, for instance.

The World Health Organization has called for artificial trans fats to be cut from the global food supply by 2023. It would be the first time a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases – the world’s leading cause of death – is eliminated. India is key to this process, as more than one in five of these deaths occur here.

The Global Health Advocacy Incubator is supporting a variety of efforts to reduce trans fats consumption around the world. In India, we are helping government regulators to make the case for limiting artificial trans fats to 2 percent of total fat content in all foods and to strengthen food labeling rules.

On food labeling, in particular, we were able to draw on another project of ours, which is focused on obesity prevention. The insights and connections gleaned from that project allowed us to swiftly put together a coalition of health and nutrition experts to advise the Indian government on food labeling. In a 2018 letter to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, the coalition – led by the internationally renowned nutrition expert Dr. Barry M. Popkin – showcased ways to empower consumers through improved nutrition facts panels and front-of-package warning labels on packaged foods containing high amounts of trans fats and other potentially harmful components.

The letter generated significant media coverage and prompted government regulators to take a closer look at international best practices before finalizing labeling rules. The Global Health Advocacy Incubator continues to support efforts by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India and its allies to achieve excellence in the formulation of food safety standards based on modern science and to regulate the food sector in a responsive, efficient and effective manner.