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Health warning on food package demanded

Published : 30 Mar 2024 10:32 PM

Rights activists and experts on public health law have suggested putting health warnings with traffic light labels on food packages in order to cut down unhealthy eating habits. 

Speaking at a consultative meeting in the capital on Saturday (March 30), they said the trend of consumption of packaged food is increasing in Bangladesh. 

However, the packaged foods mostly contain ingredients like salt, sugar and trans fats. Excessive use of these elements is one of the causes of non-communicable diseases like heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. 

Against this backdrop, the use of salt, sugar and trans fats in packaged food must be reduced to promote a healthy diet. For this reason, health warnings along with traffic light marking on packaged food is a must to ensure good health of the people, said the rights activists and experts on public health law. 

“Putting health warnings with traffic light labels on food packages is necessary to cut down unhealthy eating habits and the risk of non-communicable diseases. The traffic light label should be introduced so that the people can easily understand the amount of salt, sugar and trans fats in a packaged food. However, it is also necessary to take legal steps to stop advertising of unhealthy food aimed at children,” said Advocate Syed Mahbubul Alam, an expert on public health law. 

Center for Law and Policy Affairs (CLPA) arranged the consultative meeting titled “‘Existing Laws and Policies to Promote Healthy Diet: Challenges and Way Forward” at a hotel at Gulshan-2 in the city. 

Md Shahidul Alam, director general (additional secretary) of Food Planning and Monitoring Unit (FPMU) in the Ministry of Food, spoke at the event as the chief guest with Professor Dr AFM Sarwar, research consultant of CLPA in the chair. Advocate Syed Mahbubul Alam, secretary of CLPA, presented the keynote article in the meeting, while Aminul Islam Bakul, head of the program of the organisation delivered the welcome speech.

Kamrunnisa Munna, policy analyst of CLPA, moderated the event, while Barrister Shameem Haider Patwary, a former lawmaker and chairman of Board of Trustees of Dhaka International University; Advocate Md Nurunnabi Bulbul, a senior lawyer of Bangladesh Supreme Court and a former elected leader of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), spoke on the occasion as special guests.  Supreme Court lawyers, representatives of various non-governmental organisations and media outlets were present in the meeting and took part in open discussion. 

In his presentation, Advocate Syed Mahbubul Alam said that nutritional information is given on the packaging of packaged food in Bangladesh. However, this information is not possible for common people to understand. As per the existing safe food law, it is important to ensure health warnings along with traffic light markings on packaged foods so that even illiterate people can get an idea about healthy food.

Speakers at the event said, “We have to be careful with food packaging, because harmful microplastics are now entering the human body. However, there are many unhealthy food advertisements in Bangladesh. These advertisements are being spread to attract children to unhealthy food. It is necessary to ban the advertisements of unhealthy foods through the law. 

The speakers also said, “Our health sector will be threatened if we do not control non-communicable diseases quickly. We spend a lot on treatment. As individuals bear 60 percent of the cost of treatment, they are becoming poorer. In such a situation, the government must impose high taxes on sugar, salt and packet foods and spend the extra income on the medical sector.”