Big food brands hide harmful effects

Big food brands hide harmful effects

 claims Delhi-based NGO Centre for Science and Environment
TNN | Mar 31, 2012, 01.57AM IST
KFC is one of the 16 food brands accused of hiding the harmful effects of its products by the Centre for Science and Environment. Some other brands in the CSE list includes Maggi, Top Ramen noodles, MacDonald’s foods PepsiCo products and Haldiram’s Aloo Bhujia.
NEW DELHI: Delhi-based NGO, Centre for Science and Environment, has alleged that leading food manufacturers are guilty of “large scale misbranding and misinformation” by claiming that their food contained zero trans-fats even though tests showed that they have heavy doses of it.

Most popular “junk foods contain very high levels of trans-fats, salts and sugar – which inevitably lead to severe ill health and diseases like obesity and diabetes,” the CSE said on Friday. It released the results of laboratory tests carried out on 16 major food brands that the young particularly like, such as Maggi and Top Ramen noodles, MacDonald’s foods, KFC’s fried chicken and Haldiram’s Aloo Bhujia. These findings were disputed by the manufacturers.

Trans-fats clog arteries when they get deposited on the walls of the arteries making the passage narrower, while large amounts of salt leads to increase in blood pressure making the heart work overtime. CSE noted that the kind of food under test has enough trans-fats, salt and sugar to lead to an early onset of diseases in the young. It accused the companies of not disclosing the real contents of their products.

CSE’s lab tested samples of popular foods such as potato chips, snacks like aloo bhujia, noodles, soft drinks, burgers, French fries and fried chicken. Their results showed that having just one serving of these foods “completely overturned one’s daily diet chart.” The National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) and the World Health Organization (WHO) prescribe benchmarks of how much salt, sugar, carbohydrates and fats every individual can have on a daily basis to stay healthy.

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Citing an example, CSE said, “The NIN benchmark for maximum salt for one person is 6 gram, while the WHO puts it at 5 gram. The normal 80-gram packet of Maggi noodles that many of us gobble up almost on a daily basis has over 3.5 gram of salt – enough to take care of over 60 per cent of our daily salt intake.”

But much more than salt the real concern was the threat from the trans-fats which were disclosed by the companies, CSE noted. The WHO says that in a balanced diet, a maximum of 1 per cent of total energy should come from trans fats. Therefore, an adult male can have 2.6 gram of trans fats per day, while an adult female can have 2.1 gram and a child (10-12 years) can have 2.3 gram.

But CSE found that Top Ramen Super Noodles (Masala) which claims to have no trans-fats actually contains 0.7 gram of it per 100 gram. Similarly, Haldiram’s Aloo Bhujia says it has no trans fats, but the study found 2.5 gram per 100 gram. PepsiCo’s Lays (Snack Smart) was sold till February 2012 through huge advertisements to say that these chips are healthy because they have zero trans fats, but every 100 grams of it has 3.7 grams of trans fats.

The companies strongly refuted the allegations in the CSE report. Pepsico said, “All products manufactured by PepsiCo in India are fully compliant with all the regulations, including those on labelling, prescribed by the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India).” It said that its products under the Lays, Uncle Chips, Kurkure and Cheetos brands are trans-fat free.

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Nestle in its response said, “We respect the work being done by organizations like CSE to improve consumers’ understanding of healthy and balanced diets. Maggi is intended as a light meal and can safely be consumed as part of diversified balanced diet.” McDonald’s said, “In India we take a lot of effort to ensure our food is safe for our customers and have stringent quality processes at every stage. At McDonald’s stores we use RBD Palmolein oil which is naturally trans-fat free.”

CSE’s contention is otherwise. Its report says, “A child eating one MacDonald’s Happy Meals finishes up 90% of all his daily requirement of trans fats. The packet of Happy Meal makes absolutely no mention of this massive dosage of trans fats.” As per FSSAI rules, a product can claim to be trans fats free if it contains less than 0.2 gm of trans fats per serving but CSE found several brands flouting the norm and yet calling themselves trans fat free.

CSE’s director general Sunita Narain said, “What makes junk food so unhealthy are the high levels of salt, sugar, fats and carbohydrates in them. Our new study, which looks at the nutritional value of these foods, is to make people aware of what these foods really contain and what they will do to our health.”

CSE report says 

Maggi Noodles | 

Single pack contains 3.5g of salt; daily recommended intake is 6g. Negligible fibres ; 70% just carbohydrates 

Top Ramen Super Noodles (Masala) | 

0.7g trans fats/100g though company claims zero trans fats 

PepsiCo’s Lays (Snack Smart) | 

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3.7g trans fats/ 100g. Earlier sold as zero trans fats chips but claim knocked off later 

KFC’s Chicken Zinger | 

16.9% fats; McAloo | 8.3% fats. 35% calories in veg burger come from fats; 47% in non-veg 

WHO says an adult male can have 2.6g of trans fats a day, female 2.1g and a child 2.3g


As per our analysis for many years, trans fats level is well within international recommendation


We go to a lot of effort to ensure our food is safe for customers and have stringent quality checks

— McDonald’s