March 15th – marked the celebration of World Consumer Rights Day – is dedicated to raising global awareness of consumers’ rights and demands. It is an occasion to call for the recognition and protection of all consumer rights. The ‘right to food’ is one of the most important rights for Indians’ welfare and growth. It is enshrined in our Constitution under Article 47, which focuses on the state’s responsibility to promote nutrition and living standards in order to improve public health. Given that India accounts for a large share of the world’s hunger population due to lack of nutritious foods for all, it’s an absolute need of the hour to step up collectively to try and make a change.
In today’s economy, the consumer is truly the king. They have so much more power that they can demand and direct the way the market serves them. While consumers have understood the need to eat healthy and are becoming more conscious of the food they purchase, the market is saturated with multiple products that claim to be “healthy“.
As the immediate next steps, consumers should be vocal about these needs and ensure that they are aware of what they eat. To help navigate these confusing products overload, there are simple steps that one can follow to figure the right products for their health.
Below Are The 5 Key Points A Consumer Should Keep In Mind:
1. Reading labels thoroughly:
This can help one make informed choices about their foods. Packaged foods and drinks have a mandated label that hosts a lot of information about nutritional facts. While one would think simply looking at this information would be sufficient, given that today’s packaging industry is filled with conscious consumers, a lot of brands have jargonised or hidden content for unhealthy ingredients. The need of the hour is to have brands that talk to the consumer by telling them a true story about the product and not just give false expectations to the consumers. It is essential that consumers purchase products that actually deliver on their promise with no jargons and that offer ingredient traceability right till its source.
2. Check for trusting brands that do not lie:
There are official bodies that verify and test the food product to ensure it is true to its claim. Consumers should demand to see certificates that prove the claims mentioned on the advertisements and pack. Brands with Clean Label and 100% Whole Grain Certificates must be opted for among others. These are awarded by non-profit organizations based in the US, which are known for their stringent quality checks.
3. Demand for regulations by Government bodies:
While the previous initiatives will help navigate the jargon filled processed-food market, consumers must demand for regulations equivalent to the Health Star Rating. Such standardised rating when implemented for packaged food brands in India will help get us one step closer to ensuring every citizen has access to nutrition-related information transparently and can make more informed decisions.
4. Choosing brands that are not only good for you but the environment as well:
We all have only one planet and we must protect it. Hence it is crucial that brands have sustainable practices and that they focus not only on getting profit but also doing it sustainably and cut down on inefficient uses of resources.
5. Awareness about each ingredient to the least level possible:
Ingredients that are sourced and used for food manufacture go through processing, before coming into the food package. For instance- the much used and well-loved vanilla flavour- goes through several stages, from being a bean on the vanilla plant, to entering your favourite ice cream. During these steps of processing, it may be possible that chemicals have been added to the vanilla bean. Are all these chemicals removed before entering the ice cream? Are there any traces of these chemicals in your ice cream? Consumers have the right to know these details in any food product, as they would for a medicine or drug used to treat an illness: these chemical traces are what accumulate in our body over time, if not digested right, and lead to side effects and illnesses.
In today’s busy world when the need for healthy food is at its peak, awareness is key to gaining access to the right nutrition as the more you know the more you can demand what is right for you. Along with the consumers, there is a need for conscious efforts made by each entity – the brands as well as the Government as only then can we move to a healthier space; because eating healthy food should not be a privilege but a basic right.
Author’s Bio: Pavitra K, Lead, New Product Development, True Elements
Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.