Industry campaign to give sugar an image makeover

A file photo used for representational purpose only.  

Messages downplaying the health impact of sugar could soon start making their way into your social media feeds as the sugar industry has launched a mass awareness campaign “to counter the myths and misconceptions” swirling around their product.

Launching the Indian Sugar Mills Association’s new consumer website on Wednesday, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey noted that domestic sugar consumption has remained stagnant over the last few years at 19 kg, lower than the global average of 23.5 kg. With production continuing to grow, stagnant consumption has led to a glut in surplus stock, resulting in sugar mills unable to pay cane farmers their full dues.

“There are a lot of myths going around about the danger of sugar consumption without scientific basis. This misinformation multiplies faster than the truth. It is important to present scientific information so that people can make informed decisions,” said Mr. Pandey, suggesting that the industry explore new products like packaged sugarcane juice.

At a policy level, the industry lobby has already been successful in pressuring the Food Safety and Standards Authority to drop its proposal for “traffic light labelling” to warn consumers about foods with high sugar, salt and fat content.

“The FSSAI wanted to use red labelling when more than 10% of calories in a food item came from sugar. We urged them to print nutrition data rather than use this kind of traffic light labelling. We believe the FSSAI has given up that project,” said ISMA director general Abinash Verma.

FSSAI spokesperson Ruchika Sharma confirmed that the agency was no longer considering the colour coded system. “We had a lot of negative feedback from the industry. So now we are considering using symbols or icons instead of the traffic light system. The new labelling system is likely to be rolled out next year,” she told The Hindu.

Apart from the new website, the campaign has already targeted Facebook and Linkedin, and will soon spread to WhatsApp as well, said Mr. Verma. “There is absolutely no scientific evidence or any research paper which establishes that consumption of sugar in itself leads to any particular disease, even like diabetes or dental cavities,” he said. “Did you know that one teaspoon of sugar contains just 15 calories? Of course, like any food item, sugar must be eaten in moderation.”

The campaign has roped in a panel of doctors and chefs to give sugar an image makeover, highlighting its importance in traditional cuisine, playing up the dangers of artificial sweeteners, emphasising the purity of refined sugar and blaming a lack of exercise as the main cause for obesity rather than sugar.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2020 4:30:17 AM |

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