Business Standard

Industry body seeks investigation on WHO's processed food report

Currently, all carbonated drinks carry a 28 per cent tax rate coupled with a 12 per cent sin tax, totaling 40 per cent

The United States played a pivotal role in helping to create the WHO in 1948. Just over 70 years later, President Trump is withdrawing the country from the agency amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Martial Trezzini/EPA

The United States played a pivotal role in helping to create the WHO in 1948. Just over 70 years later, President Trump is withdrawing the country from the agency amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Martial Trezzini/EPA

BS Reporter New Delhi

Listen to This Article

Indian Sellers Collective, an umbrella body of trade associations and sellers across the country, has raised concerns about a World Health Organization (WHO) report, which proposes that zero-sugar carbonated drinks should not be classified under the same goods and services tax (GST) category as other carbonated drinks.

“This will see the cost of zero-sugar soft drinks come down and make them more accessible to Indian consumers. The WHO report (titled ‘The Growth of Ultra-processed Foods in India’) challenges the health-conscious choices made by Indian consumers during Covid, when many opted for juices or flavoured milk over carbonated drinks,” the industry body said in a release.

Currently, all carbonated drinks carry a 28 per cent tax rate coupled with a 12 per cent sin tax, totaling 40 per cent.

The body has also sent a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to protect their interests and initiate an investigation into the WHO report.

The industry body contends that the WHO report is a proxy report on behalf of global cola and food multinational companies, who are pushing their agenda to undermine Indian traditional food.

“It facilitates the takeover of the Indian foods market by popular foreign foods and proliferates the growth of foreign companies, which make such products,” it said.  

The industry body said WHO introduced new guidelines on non-sugar sweeteners in May, advising against their use for weight control or reducing the risk of non-communicable diseases.

Abhay Raj Mishra, member and national coordinator, Indian Sellers Collective, said the WHO report contradicts its own advisory of avoiding non-sugar sweeteners, commonly found in zero-sugar carbonated drinks. 

“This contradictory stance appears to push a biased narrative by the global body, suggesting an agenda to promote products from multinational corporations in the Indian market. This positioning of carcinogenic non-sugar sweeteners by WHO is clearly geared to suit the interests of a few at the cost of the health of millions of Indians,” he added.

Don't miss the most important news and views of the day. Get them on our Telegram channel

First Published: Sep 18 2023 | 6:37 PM IST

Explore News