by Peerzada Arshad Hamid
NEW DELHI, March 30 (Xinhua) -- Junk fold sold in India has been found to contain higher levels of trans-fats, salt and sugar which leads to ill health and diseases like obesity and diabetes, a research and advocacy group said on Friday.
The Center for Science and Environment (CSE) said lab tests of 16 major brands of junk foods usually consumed by young Indians found companies selling these products distort information and make false claims.
"We tested 16 major brands like Maggi, Top Ramen noodles, MacDonald's foods, KFC's fried chicken, lays, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Haldiram's Aloo Bhujia, among others and found companies resort to large scale misbranding and misinformation," said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general CSE. "Many companies say their products contain zero trans-fats, but we have found heavy doses in them."
The new study said neither the companies, nor the Indian government is bothered to brief consumers about what these foods contain.
"Our study looked at the nutritional value of these foods so as to make people aware of what these foods really contain and what they will do to our health," said Sunita Narain, director general CSE.
The higher levels of salt, sugar, fats and carbohydrates in junk foods make it unhealthy.
Trans-fats result in clogging arteries. They deposit on the walls of the arteries and make them narrower. The higher amounts of salt in body often increases blood pressure.
"High levels of trans-fats, salts and sugar inevitably lead to severe ill health and diseases like obesity and diabetes," said Bhushan.
Non-communicable diseases such as obesity and diabetes accounted for more than 50 percent of all deaths in India in 2005. Experts say by 2030 it will increase by two-thirds.
The latest National Family Health Survey (2005-06) says at least one in every eight Indian is overweight or obese.
"There is enough global evidence to suggest that more and more young people are succumbing to problems of the heart at a much earlier age," Bhushan said. "At an age when they should have been at their productive best, they are loosing productive life by eating this junk."
The CSE also accused the multinational companies - KFC and McDonalds - selling junk foods of resorting to double standards.
"For the products that they sell in U.S. they have nutritional information and relevant details printed on the wrappers but here in India they try to evade such responsibility," Bhushan said.
Consuming junk food had become a trend in Indian cities. However, the rural areas are catching fast with this trend.
The advocacy group demands restriction on junk food and imposition of "fat tax" on processed food items in case they contain more than 2.3 percent saturated fat.
"We seek sale of junk foods in schools be stopped and advertisements promoting this food in children's programs be banned," said Narain. "We need stronger regulations that will reduce the quota of fats, sugar and salt in junk foods, and ones that will force companies to provide information to the public mandatorily."
In 2003 CSE's revelations triggered a major row after it said Coca-Cola and Pepsi drinks contained pesticide residues and posed a health risk. The report led to a massive row with both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola strenuously rejecting the allegations.
Indian government following a public outcry ordered a parliamentary committee to examine the report. The committee upheld the CSE findings.