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The ‘Eat Right India’ project

Alignment with SDGs

AUTHOR

Member Secretary, INC-IDF, National Dairy Development Board, Anand, Gujarat, India

Abstract

Safe foods and healthy diets are critical in the context of India’s high burden of food borne diseases, under- nutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and growing incidence of obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like hypertension, diabetes and heart related diseases. While on the one hand, 196 million Indians are undernourished1, 135 million are overweight or obese2 putting them at risk for non-communicable diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Further, the number of cases of food borne illnesses is expected to rise from 100 million to 150 – 177 million in 2030 compared to 2013. This will directly impact the ability to absorb nutrients, fight infection, rendering millions vulnerable to a host of diseases.

In addition, the current food production and consumption food practices are threatening the environment and the future of our planet. Food production is responsible for up to 30% of global greenhouse-gas emissions contributing to global warming4. Global food waste accounts for 6.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions, directly leading to climate change5.

This underlines the need to focus on preventive healthcare through ensuring safe, healthy food for all people in an environmentally sustainable way.

The ‘Eat Right India’ Movement

Inspired by the focus on preventive and promotive healthcare in the National Health Policy 2017 and flagship programmes like Ayushman Bharat, POSHAN Abhiyaan and Swacch Bharat Mission, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has embarked on a large-scale effort to transform the country’s food system in order to provide people safe, healthy and sustainable food through the ‘‘Eat Right India’’ movement.

Following the Mahatma’s footsteps in mobilizing the nation, ‘‘Eat Right India’’ is a people’s movement. It adopts a judicious mix of regulatory, capacity building, collaborative and empowerment approaches to ensure that our food is good both for the people and the planet. Further, it builds on the collective action of all stakeholders – consumers, food businesses, community organizations, experts and professionals, and the government. Thus, ‘Eat Right India’ adopts an integrative or ‘whole of the government’ approach since the movement brings together food-related mandates of the agriculture, health, environment and other ministries. Furthermore, since foodborne illnesses and various diet-related diseases cut across all age groups and all sections of the society it also adopts a ‘whole of society’ approach, bringing all stakeholders together on a common platform.

‘Eat Right India’: Three Key Themes

The ‘Eat Right India’ is based on three key themes- Eat Safe, Eat Healthy, and Eat Sustainable.

Eat Safe

Ensuring personal and surrounding hygiene, hygienic and sanitary practices through the food supply chain, combating adulteration, reducing toxins and contaminants in food and controlling food hazards in processing and manufacturing processes.

Eat Healthy

Promoting diet diversity and balanced diets, eliminating toxic industrial trans-fats from food, reducing consumption of salt, sugar and saturated fats and promoting large-scale fortification of staples to address micronutrient deficiencies.

Eat Sustainable

Promote local and seasonal foods, prevent food loss and food waste, conserve water in food value chains, reduce use of chemicals in food production and presentation and use of safe and sustainable packaging.

Dairy production in India is providing nutrition security and livelihoods, thus contributing to communities and helping to build a resilient future in which nobody is left behind.

Meenesh Shah - Member Secretary, INC-IDF Tweet

‘Eat Right India’ Initiatives

Apart from the regulatory functions of FSSAI mandated by the Food Safety and Standards (FSS), Act 2006, such as setting science-based, globally benchmarked standards for food, ensuring credible food-testing and compliance to these standards through surveillance and enforcement activities, ‘Eat Right India’ encompasses a bouquet of initiatives. These initiatives aim to promote both the demand for and the supply of safe and healthy food in a sustainable way. While the supply-side interventions are aimed at building capacities of food businesses to promote self-compliance, the demand-side initiatives work towards motivating consumers to demand safe and healthy food. The initiatives for the production and consumption of food in a sustainable way are aimed at promoting environment-friendly food practices and habits.

Supply-side Initiatives

On the supply-side, to build capacities of food businesses on food safety, FSSAI has initiated Food Safety Training and Certification (FoSTaC) – a unique program to ensure a trained and certified Food Safety Supervisor (FSS) on each food business premises. Several benchmarking and certification schemes to improve food safety and hygiene standards are in place. Clean Street Food Hub, Clean and Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Markets, Eat Right Station and BHOG (Blissful Hygienic Offering to God) for Places of Worship that are targeted to clusters of vendors. The Hygiene Rating scheme for Restaurants and Catering Establishments, Sweet and Meat Shops has been put in place for individual food service establishments

Sustainability Initiatives

To encourage and support responsible production and consumption of food to protect the environment, FSSAI is spearheading initiatives such as Save Food, Share Food to reduce food waste and promote food donation, Safe and Sustainable Packaging in Food and Beverage Sector to reduce the use of plastics and Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO) for safe and healthy use of cooking oil and repurposing used cooking oil to make biodiesel, soap or other useful products. ‘Eat Right India’ aims to scale up all these initiatives at the national level in order to ensure that each citizens eats safe and healthy food in a sustainable way..

Demand-side Initiatives

The demand-side initiatives of FSSAI aim at large-scale social and behaviour change by engaging consumers and educating them on eating right. They work on three major focus areas – Building Consumer Awareness, Addressing Adulteration and Enabling Healthy Choices For building consumer awareness, a settings-based approach has been adopted with programmes like Eat Right Campus and Eat Right School that target individuals in workplaces, colleges, universities, institutes, hospitals, tea estates and jails as well as school children. The Eat Right Toolkit has been launched to reach communities at the grass-roots level by training frontlines healthworkers on messages on eating right. Through the Eat Right Campus, we nudge various institutions including corporate houses to adopt a holistic approach towards safe food and better nutrition in their premises. Safe, healthy and sustainable food in the campus would reduce the incidence of food borne illnesses, deficiency diseases and non-communicable diseases among the people in the campus. This means less absenteeism and loss of working hours and greater wellbeing, motivation and productivity of people. This would also reduce the burden of healthcare costs for the workplace, institution, hospital, jail or tea estate. All these factors would ultimately result in economic benefits to the campus. In addition, being recognized as an Eat Right Campus would increase the prestige and brand value of the campus, making it attractive for prospective students, employees etc. Last but not the least, this would also inspire other campuses to promote safe, healthy and sustainable food, thus resulting in the overall development of the country. To address adulteration, FSSAI undertakes periodic food surveys to build trust of consumers in safety and quality of food products, in association with other relevant government departments, throughout the country. The DART Book to test food adulterants at home has been developed. A mobile food testing van called Food Safety on Wheels has been launched to reach remote areas and conduct training and awareness activities as well. Further, FSSAI regularly releases consumer guidance notes and myth busters to empower consumers to make informed choices. To enable healthy choices, FSSAI has launched mass awareness campaigns to reduce salt, fat and sugar in the diet, “Aaj Se Thoda Kam” and Trans-Fat Free [email protected] to eliminate trans fats by 2022. Food fortification is also being promoted on a large scale to address micronutrient deficiencies. Regulations for mandatory edible oil and milk fortification will be notified soon.

References

  1. Chronic Hungry: FAO State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2018

  2. Ahirwar & Mondal (2019). Prevalence of obesity in India: A systematic review Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome, Clinical Research & Reviews Vol, 13:1, 318-321

  3. The economics of food safety in India–a rapid assessment by Wageningen Economic Research and ILRI 2017.

  4. EAT-Lancet Commission: Brief for Farmers

  5. FAO: Food Wastage Footprint & Climate Change