The FSSAI, the food industry, public health professionals, civil society and consumer organizations, influencers and celebrities came together on a common platform recently and pledged to take concrete steps to create ‘The Eat Right Movement’ in the country. The goal of the ‘The Eat Right Movement” is to improve public health in India and to combat negative nutritional trends in consumers, so as to fight lifestyle diseases.
Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) account for 1 in 5 disease-related deaths, widespread anemia and other micronutrient deficiencies are on the rise and India is becoming the diabetes capital of the world. ‘The Eat Right Movement’, has therefore been built on two broad pillars of ‘Eat Healthy’ and ‘Eat Safe’ and it aims to engage, excite and enable citizens to improve their health and wellbeing. ‘The Eat Right Movement’ focuses on empowering citizens to make the right food choices. On the supply side, it nudges food businesses to reformulate their products, provide better nutritional information to consumers and make investments in healthy food as responsible food businesses.
The growing consensus amongst industry members on the importance of promoting ‘eating right’ was discernible in the commitments made by companies across food chains.
- Edible oil industry, bakeries and ‘halwais’ have committed to phase out trans-fats by 2022 [[email protected] Freedom from trans-fats by 2022]
- Major food companies have pledged to reformulate packaged foods to reduce the level of salt, sugar and saturated fat
- Food services sector has promised to provide healthier food options and introduce menu-labeling
- Major food retail players including e-commerce players have agreed to promote healthier food options and responsible retail practices
‘The Eat Right Movement’ has brought together three on-going initiatives of FSSAI:
- Safe and Nutritious Food Initiative is focused on social and behavioral change around food safety and nutrition at home, school, workplace, and on-the-go
- the Eat Healthy Campaign is focused on the reduction of high fat, sugar and salt foods in the diet
- Food Fortification is focused on promoting five staple foods-wheat flour, rice, oil, milk and salt that are added with key vitamins and minerals to improve their nutritional content.
Besides Food Industry professional associations like the Nutrition Society of India (NSI), Indian Dietetics Association (IDA), Association of Food Scientists and Technologists (India) and Indian Medical Association (IMA), Indian Federation of Culinary Associations (IFCA) and individuals have committed to support this platform.
A credible and high-quality resource ‘The Eat Right Movement’ Website was also launched with a view to sustain the movement. The website will act as an interface between food safety and nutrition experts and citizens. It will provide credible and authentic nutrition information including health tips by experts, nutritious recipes, and exciting tools to get a peek into nutritional needs, body indices, learning about nutrition labels, and other resources. An AI Powered Chatbot for citizens to answer all questions related to food is part of the website.
The Eat Right Toolkit has been created so as to reach people at the grassroots level. It consists of a training manual for frontline health workers such as Health and Wellness Centre workers, ASHA and Anganwadi workers, etc. and engagement material for citizens in rural and aspirational areas, with a special focus on children. Resource books on safe and nutritious food such as the Pink Book for homes, The Yellow Book for schools, The Orange Book for workplaces, The Purple Books for eating out, vetted by domain experts are also in place. The training modules and other engagement material will be disseminated through various partners that include Central and State Government Departments, Civil Society Organizations, Industry and Professional Associations, NGOs, national and international agencies, academia and corporates through CSR initiatives.
To kick start and popularize the movement, a powerful infotainment campaign was presented. A short video, starring National Award-winning actor Sh. Rajkumar Rao was launched with the aim to encourage citizens to reduce salt, sugar and fat on mass media and social media. The video has the potential to go viral with its simple message – ‘Aaj Se, Thoda Kam’. Rajkumar Rao, as the main face of the campaign officially launched the ‘The Eat Right Movement’ in Mumbai and offered his support to spread the message of ‘#Aaj Se Thoda Kam’ across possible formats.
Speaking on the occasion, Chief Guest, Professor VijayaRaghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor GOI, opined that there is a need to complement reduced salt, sugar, fat with lifestyle changes such as eating a more plant-based, natural diet, which celebrity chefs can demonstrate in practice. The industry is a big player in supporting this movement, therefore, the synergy between government, civil society, and the industry is critical to its success. Padmashri Chef Sanjeev Kapoor committed to supporting this movement by promoting healthy food on his channel with 80-million viewers.
Several other guest speakers and FSSAI officials shared their thoughts like Dr. Balram Bhargav, DG, ICMR pointed out that, non-communicable diseases are rampant in India and this movement along with ‘Thoda Kam’ gesture is a brilliant idea to drive home the message and he suggested that street food vendors must also be mobilized to participate in the movement. Dr. Arabinda Mitra, Scientific Secretary, Department of Science and Technology, said schools must be targeted and the curriculum must be changed to incorporate the messages of eating right and ‘thoda kam as formative years of life are critical for inculcating healthy food habits. CEO FSSAI Pawan Agarwal remarked that “The Eat Right Movement” can grow organically as a self-perpetuating movement, which is co-owned and co-led by various partners using the broad framework and resources put together by professionals and experts in the field of food and nutrition. Chairperson, FSSAI, Shri Ashish Bahuguna stated that these voluntary nutrition commitments are a giant leap towards combatting negative nutrition trends in society and along with social and behavioral changes for positive nutrition in citizens and this would help to reduce the burden of non-communicable disease in the country.