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As India debates serving size in restaurants, US asks eateries to mention calorie count or pay fine


The most populous city in the US, New York has decided that its chain convenience stores and supermarkets serving prepared foods will now have to show calorie count on their menu. According to an Associated Press report, the city’s health department recently announced the expanded rules. Chain restaurants in New York City have been required to post calorie counts since 2008. The new rules also require chain restaurants and food retailers to post full nutritional information, not just calories, for standard menu items. They must also post a statement about the daily recommended caloric intake of 2,000 calories. Meanwhile, according to a PTI report, FSSAI CEO Pawan Agarwal had said that the association has been trying to the explore feasibility of mentioning calorie and other nutritional value in the food menu of hotel and restaurants.

The updated rules in New York City affect about 3,000 restaurants and about 1,500 food chains like 7-Eleven and Whole Foods. The city began enforcing the rules on May 22 and will start issuing fines ranging from $200 to $600 on August 21, the AP report said. FSSAI, India’s food regulator in February had said that it wants restaurants to declare the calorific and nutritive value of the food they serve in an effort aimed at making consumers aware of what they eat. It had reportedly said that declaring such details about calorie and nutrition ensures that consumers are informed. Such a rule is already a part of labelling norms for packaged food. The Indian food regulator’s move is probably inspired by the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), which in December 2014 notified rules under the ‘Nutrition Labelling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments’.

According to rules set by US Food and Drug Administration:
1. Calorific value has to be printed next to the name of the dish or price on the menu.
2. Restaurants have to print a generic statement: “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.”
3. Restaurants have to print a statement that they will offer customers “additional nutritional information” on request.
4. On request, restaurants will have to provide information on fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, dietary fibre, sugars and protein content. Provision of details on vitamins and minerals is optional.

According to a (National Restaurant Association of India) NRAI-Technopak report, food services market in India is projected to grow to Rs 4.98 trillion in the next 4 years, expanding at a yearly average rate of 10 percent, from Rs 3.09 trillion last year. India has faced several issues when it comes to public health and nutrition. It is a rising menace as urbanisation contributes to more sedentary lifestyles and poor or wrong eating habits promote obesity across age groups. To make India healthy, consumers must be educated, health products should be subsidised and harmful ingredients should be banned. Some fine-dining restaurants, especially those at five-star hotels, have separate menus for low-calorie food and also offer sugar-free options on demand. But they do not declare calorific and nutrition details.

Fat tax on junk food, a reality in European countries such as Denmark and Hungary, found its way into India in June 2016 when the Kerala government proposed a 14.5% tax on burgers, pizzas and other junk food served in branded restaurants. However, the fat tax recommendations gave rise to a lot of debates, where some have complained that the problem is that the FSSAI wants almost everything off your plate, according to the list which includes energy drinks, bread, biscuits, canned soups, chocolates etc. While it will not be surprising if India decides to go the US way when it comes to declaring the calorific value of food in restaurant chains, but it must make the rules with caution.

Source:  Financial Express

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