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Concerned over the dangers posed by "unhealthy dietary patterns influenced by intense marketing by big food corporations", several public interest groups today sought strong laws to prevent conflict of interest in policy-making in this area.
"Over the years, we have contested attempts by the private sector to infiltrate public feeding programmes like the Mid- Day Meal Scheme and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) by advocating ready-to-eat packaged food as a substitute for freshly-cooked meals and local foods," said Dr Arun Gupta, paediatrician and regional coordinator of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), Asia.
"It is well known that India is also facing increasing prevalence of obesity and non-communicable diseases which are caused mainly by unhealthy dietary patterns influenced by intense marketing by big food corporations," Gupta added in a statement today.
Amit Srivastava, Coordinator of India Resource Center, said they appreciate a recent World Health Assembly statement that India made on the issue of conflict of interest in which it cautioned about indirect funding from industry harming human health.
Amit Sengupta of People's Health Movement (Jan Swasthya Abhiyan), said, "It is ironical that there are instances where the government is creating conditions for organisations with conflict of interest to occupy policy spaces.
"While, on the one hand, we see such indirect engagement with the private sector, on the other, the government is not adopting a strong regulatory approach on marketing of unhealthy foods.
"When it comes to the issue of dealing with big food corporations, the government speaks in the language of 'engagement' rather than 'regulation'. That once again opens doors for these companies to expand their markets through government action or inaction.