The next time you open a packet of imported biscuits or crisps, remember you are setting up your health to potential harm.
Packaged foods and drinks in India have high levels of saturated fats, total sugars, salt as well as protein, calcium and fiber. In fact, Indian packaged foods and drinks were found the least healthy, according to an Oxford study published in “Obesity Reviews.”
The report also stated that packaged food and drink samples from India were found to be the most energy-dense (1515 kilojoules / 100 gram). Their sugar levels were the second-highest (7.3 grams per 100 g), But their nutritional value was the least and Indian products were placed at the bottom with an overall rating.
Considering that Bhutan imports a major part of packaged food from India, Agriculture Minister, Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor said he is aware of this claim and prepared to deal with it. “I have no comments, when it comes to ranking the Indian packaged foods in global survey,” he said, “Making judgments on packaged food based on a global survey is not so worrying that we must take measures on that report.”
Lyonpo said for Bhutan, it is important for the people to understand that we definitely need to cut down our dependence on import of packaged food from India or other third countries. “To keep the better health of the people, we need to cut down on imported items,” he said.
He added the agriculture ministry is focusing on reducing the cost of import of food resources. “We have talked so much of sustainable development and self sufficiency of food resources and our mission is to work towards substituting import products with our own productions,” he said.
Meanwhile, saturated fat, total sugars and energy density are the major contributors for obesity. Diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular problems are packaged by food samples from India than those from other countries, according to the survey.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Bhutan does not have a laboratory to check imported packaged foods and drinks. “In the 12th FYP, the ministry is focusing on internalizing the market to live up to food sufficiency in the country instead of import,” he said.
Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) said they are aware about the report and are taking care of food safety as well as nutrition. A BAFRA official said some food imported from India as well as other third countries do not contain any nutrition, and they are working with the Ministry of Health on nutritional leveling.
The official added that they are partners with the health ministry on the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) program and they are working on nutritional leveling. “We are collaborating with the health ministry on salt reduction strategies; that is one area where intervention can help.”
She added they are doing ground work with regard to nutrition. “We are creating awareness on food safety and nutrition while training people on food handling.”
Kinley Yonten from Thimphu