An Evaluation of the Healthiness of the Indian Packaged Food and Beverage Supply.
Jones A., Dunford E., Crossley R., Thout SR., Rayner M., Neal B.
Availability of less-healthy packaged food and beverage products has been implicated as an important driver of obesity and diet-related disease. An increasing number of packaged foods and beverages are sold in India. Our objective was to evaluate the healthiness of packaged foods sold by India's largest manufacturers. Healthiness was assessed using the Australian Health Star Rating (HSR) system and the World Health Organization's European Regional Office (WHO Euro) Nutrient Profile Model. Sales-value-weighted mean healthiness and the proportions of "healthy" products (using a validated HSR cut-off of ≥3.5, and products meeting WHO Euro criteria as healthy enough to market to children) were calculated overall, by company and by food category. Nutrient information for 943 products sold by the 11 largest Indian manufacturers was obtained from nutrient labels, company websites or directly from the manufacturer. Healthiness was low overall (mean HSR 1.8 out of 5.0 stars) with a low proportion defined as "healthy" by both HSR (17%) and also by WHO Euro criteria (8%). There were marked differences in the healthiness of similar products within food categories. Substantial variation between companies (minimum sales-value-weighted mean HSR 0.5 for Company G, versus maximum HSR 3.0 for Company F) was a result of differences in the types of products sold and the nutritional composition of individual products. There are clear opportunities for India's largest food companies to improve both the nutritional quality of individual products and to improve their product mix to include a greater proportion of healthy products.