19 October 2021
A documentary entitled ‘Front of Package Labeling: A Game Changer for Healthy India’, prepared by the Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health(DCM & SPH) , Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh was released during a press conference held at the Press Club here. This documentary is a part of a project being undertaken by the Institute in collaboration with the Government of Punjab and Strategic Institute of Public Health Education and Research (SIPHER) and is supported by Global Health Advocacy Incubator, USA. The documentary released at the juncture of festivals such as Diwali, aims to generate awareness among policymakers, implementers, and the general public about the importance of healthy and wholesome food to keep Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs’) like hypertension at bay and to generate support for an intense Front-of-Pack Labelling (FOPL) policy to be developed by Government of India.
“A rapid rise in hypertensive cases is being observed in Punjab, which is worrisome. Through the project, we are collaborating with the Government of Punjab to prevent and better manage hypertension through sensitization of media and the general public regarding the risk factors like trans fats in food. We strongly feel that warning labels on food items are an effective way of helping people to make nutritious food choices. The documentary drives home the importance of Front of Package Labeling (FOPL) for averting a cardiovascular health, obesity and diabetes crisis in India.” said Dr. Sonu Goel.
As per WHO, Non-communicable diseases (NCDs’) account for 70% of the global deaths. The state of Punjab has become a capital of hypertension with one out of three people suffering from this silent killer. Excessive intake of fats, sugar and salt available in packaged foods such as cake, pizza, pastry, french fries, ice cream, etc. are the primary cause of NCDs. Under this project which started in 2019, PGIMER Chandigarh has signed a pact with Food and Drug Administration, Punjab to implement and regulate the trans fat surveillance in Punjab.
The documentary highlights key features such as transition of food practices from traditional to modern, ways to making healthy food choices, identifying good and bad food, diseases associated with bad food. etc.
It took around two months to prepare this documentary of approximately 7 minutes, which is a collaborative effort of the project team. The documentary has been conceptualized and narrated by Dr. Sonu Goel, Professor, Dept. of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, PGIMER, Chandigarh and Principal Investigator of the project.
While appreciating the public health initiative of PGIMER, Mr. Manoj Khosla, Joint Commissioner, FDA, Punjab highlighted the achievements of the FDA in context of Food Safety and also briefed the audience regarding the progress of the MoU signed with PGIMER, Chandigarh. Adding to this, Dr. Ravneet Kaur, Director, Food Safety Lab, Punjab highlighted that the trans fat surveillance would strengthen the advocacy for FOPL in the country. Dr. Geeta Mehra, Head, Dept. of Food Sciences, MCM DAV College, Chandigarh emphasized the importance of reading food labels while purchasing any packaged food product. She stressed that “FOPL, if implemented in India, will allow the consumers to identify products containing excess sugars, trans-fats, oils, and sodium easily, quickly, and correctly and help them to make informed food choices”.