Can we?

Consumer Voice - - Editor's Voice - Padma Editor

While it will not be po­lit­i­cally cor­rect to say that most com­pa­nies lie, I think you will all agree that they do not tell us the whole truth ei­ther. Many of them hide, con­ceal, cam­ou­flage, or omit a few facts, which if re­vealed may in­flu­ence their sales. For in­stance, if a soda brand were to ad­mit that their prod­uct had no nu­tri­tional value and came packed with side ef­fects, would you buy that?

Yet, you have the right to know all that and much more about ev­ery­thing that you are ‘pay­ing for’ to con­sume, es­pe­cially if it is food and con­nected with your well­be­ing.

If you are read­ing this, then you are cer­tainly al­ready aware of many things and the re­cent noo­dle-brand con­tro­versy may have made you wiser and more alert. Now what wor­ries you and many oth­ers is the fact that ev­ery depart­ment store that you visit stocks hun­dreds of ready-to-eat or ready-to-cook food items and all claim to be ‘cer­ti­fied’, etc.

The fore­most thing that we need sooner is a strin­gent regime. Com­pared to the reg­u­la­tions in the Europe and the United States, our coun­try is quite le­nient. Thank­fully, the govern­ment has taken no­tice and the food reg­u­la­tor Food Safety and Stan­dards Au­thor­ity of In­dia (FSSAI) is al­ready work­ing on a com­plete over­haul of norms for la­belling of food prod­ucts. It is in the process of putting in place stricter norms for the pack­aged food in­dus­try and food im­porters.

How­ever, should we re­ally ex­pect FSSAI to be able to keep a check on ev­ery prod­uct on an ev­ery­day ba­sis? On the In­ter­net, I could not find how many mar­kets/re­tail­ers are to be cov­ered by a food in­spec­tor or how many sur­prise vis­its does he need to make to keep a check or han­dle com­plaints. In any case, even if one in­spec­tor is sup­posed to check only one shop, can he re­ally go through all the prod­ucts and see if their la­bels are as per the norms, leave alone rec­om­mend­ing some for hygiene tests. To strengthen the vigil and cre­ate a de­ter­ring en­vi­ron­ment,

Con­sumer Voice has started mar­ket sur­veil­lance and ran­dom test­ing of pack­aged foods and food sup­ple­ments. A team of ex­perts is busy test­ing and ver­i­fy­ing food prod­ucts and their claims, and the re­ports on the first few prod­ucts are al­ready in this is­sue.

Nev­er­the­less, while Voice’s ef­forts will add a lit­tle more value to the govern­ment’s sys­tem, it alone may not be enough to ini­ti­ate the mass move­ment that the coun­try needs at this point to en­sure that no com­pany will ever dare to put an ob­jec­tion­able prod­uct in the mar­ket. I see hope in a mass cam­paign that can make ev­ery in­di­vid­ual an aware and vig­i­lant con­sumer – an in­di­vid­ual who keeps check on the la­belling, re­ports doubt­ful prod­ucts, ques­tions com­pa­nies’ claims, and does not hes­i­tate in rais­ing a ‘voice’ when needed. Hav­ing just one such aware con­sumer per shop is not a dif­fi­cult task. Two will solve the en­tire prob­lem.

On that note, we at Con­sumer Voice wish our read­ers a won­der­ful and safe year ahead.

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