India Resource Centre (IRC), an international campaigning organization based in US, has taken strong exception to the Government of India’s tieup with Coca-Cola for food safety and nutrition, calling it “misguided”, insisting that the multinational corporation (MNC) “will use the partnership to promote unhealthy products.”
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) – the country’s premier government organization responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety –announced on Tuesday that it has entered into a partnership with Coca-Cola India to provide training to vendors “in order to ensure safe and nutritious food for all.”
In a statement sent to Counterview, IRC said, “FSSAI’s partnership is misguided and antithetical to the food regulator’s mission, and must be scrapped”, adding, “FSSAI should not enter into partnerships with entities it is supposed to regulate because it ensures conflicts of interest.”
“It is now widely recognized around the world that the vast majority of Coca-Cola products are neither safe nor nutritious, and Coca-Cola is the least qualified company to provide input on food safety and healthy nutrition”, IRC said.
“Even as the FSSAI has announced the partnership, the parliament of India is slated to vote as early as this week on a measure that will introduce sin taxes on aerated beverages containing sugar – the bread and butter of Coca-Cola’s product portfolio”, regrets IRC.
“The proposal to subject such products to a sin tax – proposed by India’s Chief Economic Advisor – was done so because it is acknowledged that sugar sweetened beverages such as Coca-Cola, Maaza, Thums Up, Sprite, Fanta and the likes – cause more harm than good due to the excessive sugar content in these products”, it added.
“One 330 ml can or bottle of Sprite in India contains 10 teaspoons of sugar, or 40 grams of sugar according to Coca-Cola”, IRC said, adding, “The sugar content of just one can of Sprite exceeds the daily added sugar intake recommended by the American Heart Association, which recommends 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women and 9 teaspoons for men per day.”
Citing a group of public health professionals from around the world, the statement said, they signed a statement in support of the proposed sin tax in India, noting that “Taxing sugar-sweetened beverages in ways similar to tobacco is a positive step forward to protect the public health interests of all Indians.”
“The partnership between FSSAI and Coca-Cola is even more troubling because the existence of FSSAI came about as the result of a Joint Parliamentary Committee report confirming the presence of high levels of pesticides in Coca-Cola and other beverages in India – which were initially reported in 2003 by the Centre for Science and Environment”, IRC said.
“The investigation into the presence of high levels of pesticides in Coca-Cola and other beverages in India found a failure of the regulatory mechanism in India and the FSSAI was established to regulate food safety after the consolidation of various food safety laws in the country”, it added.
“The FSSAI has also been put in charge by the Delhi High Court to develop regulations to ban junk food in schools and a 50 meter radius – foods high in fat, sugar and salt – which includes Coca-Cola products”, the statement pointed out.
The court’s order of March 2015, meant “primarily to protect children’s health by removing access to harmful products like Coca-Cola”, after a “public interest litigation filed by the Delhi- based Uday Foundation which had sought an immediate ban on junk food and carbonated drinks in schools and a 500 yard radius”, the statement said.