The right to choose: why harmful products must have clear labels

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The right to choose: why harmful products must have clear labels
The right to choose: why harmful products must have clear labels
24 June, 11:26
"We propose in Russia at the legislative level to make mandatory labeling of all food products containing an increased amount of sugar, saturated fat, sodium and calories".

Such a proposal to the country's authorities was made by the author of the project "20 ideas for the development of Russia" Dmitry Davydov. Let's figure out why markings are necessary for each of us.

Ivan Petrovsky

WITH A READING-GLASS - FOR A SAUSAGE

A native of the USSR, and now a citizen of Canada, Harry Taranoff recently came to Rostov to visit his mother. In his new homeland, Harry has been promoting the ideas of healthy eating for 20 years - without transgenic fats, excess salts and calories, preservatives and chemical flavor enhancers. At the same time, Harry himself is a professional chef and confectioner who has a patent for the production of cakes and pastries without any harmful elements and a minimum of calories.

"Look what horror they sell here under the guise of sausages, - Harry says, pointing to a slice of the so-called "raw smoked sausage" that lists at least 45 ingredients in fine print on the packaging. The meaning of half of it is available only to the understanding of food technologists. And its' share in the product is not indicated at all.

According to Harry, for the average buyer, the list of preservatives, emulsifiers, thickeners, dyes and other ingredients of the pseudo-sausage is a flimsy letter that no one will study.

"People need product labels that are clear at a glance!", - Harry says, - In Canada, these markers have been introduced since 2019, and now even elementary school students know and see what they are buying".

In fact, in countries that have introduced labeling of harmful products, and these are Chile, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, Argentina, Israel, unhealthy food has been equated with the sale of cigarettes and booze.

"The principle is simple: you have the right to buy this or that product, but you must understand the consequences of regularly eating food with a high content of sugar, salt, saturated fats, which provide a huge amount of "bad" calories, - the expert says, - And these consequences are well known: obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, diseases of the digestive system and much more, including various types of cancer".

For information: according to Rosstat, in 2018, 21.7% of Russians over 19 were obese and 40.3% were overweight. The World Health Organization labels this problem as a global epidemic: from 1975 to 2016, the proportion of people suffering from obesity increased 3 times among adults and almost 7 times among children.

WHAT SHOULD PRODUCT LABELING BE

The issue of food markers is a stumbling block among food experts, manufacturers and sellers. It is obvious that food packages should not be a nightmare for customers, as is done in anti-advertising of tobacco products. Nevertheless, according to Dmitry Davydov, warning labels should be large and placed on the front side of the package in a prominent place.

Маркировки вредных продуктов в Чили: скромно, но понятно всем

According to Davydov, the discreet but informative design of the markers can warn of 4 factors - excess sugar, sodium (i.e. salt), saturated fat and calories.

Dmitry Davydov also proposes to significantly limit the advertising of products that are subject to labeling, prohibit their sale in kindergartens and educational institutions, and exclude them from the school meal program.

The implementation of this proposal will lead to the following results:

Consumers will be aware that the product they purchase and use carries a health hazard. At the same time, producers will be motivated to produce healthier food, and cases of food abuse will be significantly reduced.

What foods in our daily diet can get warning labels?

Yekaterina Vladimirova, an expert in the field of baby food, is sure that chips, carbonated drinks, burgers, store-bought confectionery, sausages, sauces, canned food and quick soups of various types and names will be in the top ten most harmful.

"We are not talking about permanently banning sausages or juices in packages. - says Catherine. - It's just that people should understand that harmful products become such with excessive consumption. Sugar, for example, will not harm if you consume no more than 50 grams per day. And smoked sausage - too, if you eat it not with "sticks", but with a few thin pieces. However, the consumer behavior of many people who do not think about the consequences is far from any norms".

HOW TO MAKE PRODUCTS LABEL

Practice shows that the voluntariness of food producers and traders is not to be expected. Almost 5 years ago, the proposal to introduce labeling on goods containing excessive amounts of sugar, salt and fat was approved by the Federation Council Committee on Agrarian Food Policy and Environmental Management. “The head of Rospotrebnadzor Anna Popova came up with such an initiative”, - Senator Irina Gekht said at a panel discussion in the Parliamentary newspaper. “It is proposed to label the packaging in three colors - red, green or yellow, depending on the content of these three components in the product”.

The very idea of labeling non-useful goods is not a bad one, agreed Vadim Gitlin, Director General of NP Roskontrol, and will fit in well with the well-known world practice. In essence, the initiative proposes to make information about the composition of the goods indicated in small print on the packaging more visible and visual. “This can help the consumer save time when choosing a product, as well as provide additional protection to citizens experiencing certain health problems”, - Gitlin said. “Another thing is that in order to implement the idea, it is necessary to carry out a huge preparatory work, so it will not work to quickly introduce marking”.

In turn, Dmitry Davydov believes that this preparatory work should be based on an unambiguous law obliging all parties involved in the process to label products. It is important that the state go to the meeting and support such initiatives. Otherwise, all good and useful ideas will remain only good wishes.

In response to his appeal to the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Davydov received a response signed by the Deputy Director of the Food Industry Department V. S. Skvortsov, which, in particular, says:

"Rospotrebnadzor developed "MR 2.3.0122-18. 2.3. Food hygiene. Color indication on food labeling in order to inform consumers. Methodological recommendations" (approved by the Chief State Sanitary Doctor of the Russian Federation on February 28, 2018), which contain unified approaches according to the color indication on the labeling of food products of industrial production, depending on the content of added sugar, salt, saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids, taking into account the analysis of the average daily consumption of food products in the Russian Federation and the average values of the above critically important nutrients. This color indication is voluntary (highlighted the editor) and is intended to provide the consumer with more detailed and visual information about the content of individual substances in it".

In turn, Dmitry Davydov did not agree that "...shifting all responsibility for assessing the harmfulness of a product to the buyer does not allow reducing the consumption of junk food for several reasons".

First of all, the buyer needs not only knowledge of the composition of the consumed product, but also a professional opinion on how this product may be harmful to him.

Secondly, there is no age restriction on food products, and, accordingly, children and adolescents easily succumb to the influence of junk food due to the fact that their level of development does not allow to adequately assess the damage that excessive consumption of sweet, salty or fatty foods can bring them. .

Thirdly, practice shows that the bulk of buyers do not pay attention to the study of nutritional value and the content of elements in the composition of the product, or do not understand this information on the packaging and do not trust it.

Therefore, Dmitry Davydov asked to reconsider the position of the Ministry of Agriculture and initiate the introduction of a mandatory warning label on the front side of the packaging of all foods high in sodium, sugar, fat and calories, as well as restrictions on advertising of such products, primarily for children.

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