GS 1 –Social Issues
A lab study by the Centre for Science and Environment has found extremely high levels of salt, fat and trans fat in junk foods responsible for obesity and non-communicable diseases like hypertension, diabetes and heart ailments.
The shocking study
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based research and advocacy non-profit, had shaken up the country in 2012 when it found high amounts of salt, fat, trans fat and carbohydrate in foods people love to eat. Seven years later, where exactly do we stand?
To understand this, between July and October 2019, CSE’s Environment Monitoring Laboratory again tested their content in 33 popular packaged and fast foods marketed by Indian and multi-national companies and available across the country. The samples were collected from grocery stores and fast food outlets in Delhi. The lab used internationally accepted testing methods listed by the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC). Carbohydrate in these foods was tested by the widely used colorimetry method.
The lab results were used to understand how much of each nutrient contributes to the recommended dietary intake for the Indian population. It corelated the results with the serving size or weight of the products to understand the actual intake. The results, to say the least, were shocking. Chips and namkeens had way more salt and fat than one should consume in a snack. Instant noodles and soups had too much salt.
The study’s revelation on salt and transfats
The analysis was based on the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), derived after reviewing the recommendations of World Health Organization (WHO), National Institute of Nutrition-India, ICMR and the scientific expert groups of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
The RDA for salt was reached at 5g, 60 g fat and 300 g carbohydrate for one person in a day. The trans fat limit was 2.2 g. The calculations were made taking into account the accepted 2,000 kilocalorie that a healthy person requires in a day.
Considering we have three meals in a day and two snacks, our mealtime consumption of these nutrients should not be more than 25 per cent of RDA, and the two main snacks of the day must not add more than 10 per cent of RDA.
All the chips tested either had high salt or high fat, or both. Lay’s India’s Magic Masala, Uncle Chipps Spicy Treat and Haldiram’s Chips Pudina Treat exceeded 10 per cent RDA of both salt and fat. One-fifth of the day’s fat RDA gets blown away if one consumes one serve of Haldiram’s Chips Pudina Treat.
Worse, there are chips packets that mention 30 g as the serving size — the amount allowed for consumption — but are not available in that size only. For instance, the Rs 20 pack of Lay’s American Style Cream and Onion that weighs 52 g, mentions 30 g as its serving size. In effect, it offers more chips than one can consume in one go.
CSE’s lab tested four varieties of namkeens. All but one had high salt and fat content, but Haldiram’s Classic Nut Cracker had criminally high salt, exhausting almost 35 per cent of RDA — much higher than one should consume in one full meal. It mentions the 35-g serving size only on its website. Checking this online before tearing the pack open is a difficult proposition. Haldiram’s Aloo Bhujia exhausts more than 21 per cent of the salt RDA. But there’s no way consumers can know how much salt they consume from these namkeens and chips.
A medium McDonald’s fries accounts for almost one-fifth of the daily fat need. The combo has an astounding 103 per cent salt, 72 per cent fat, 13 per cent trans fat and 33 per cent carbohydrate. Unsuspecting vegetarians are not any luckier. A vegetarian Cheese Whopper from Burger King will leave you with just over a fourth of the daily salt quota and less than half of that for fat. As its regular fries accounts for almost one-fifth of the daily fat need, adding it to a combo meal, stuffs you with just too much nutrients.
Problems associated with junk food
Consumption of the junk food invites various health problems. The habit of the consumption of junk food is continuously increasing in young generation especially in children. The main problems with junk food are increasing childhood obesity, which further leads many health complications in children. The attracting advertisements are largely responsible for the mind make up of children to consume junk food. Multinational companies are attracting the new customers by attractive and aggressive marketing strategies.