Home » FSS ACT » Study says food MNCs’ standards inconsistent

Study says food MNCs’ standards inconsistent

Global food and beverage biggies seem to be applying lower or no standards, and less responsible practices in unregulated markets, like India, and may not be following consistent standards across all markets of operation. This could explain the recent run-ins which food companies, particularly Nestle, had with regulatory agencies in the country with regard to labelling requirements last year with its best-selling brand, Maggi instant noodles.
Also, top food and beverage companies are doing far too little to tackle under-nutrition, and handling the scourge of obesity through diet-related strategies does not figure on their agenda. These are some of the worrying findings by the Netherlands-based independent non-profit organization, Access to Nutrition Foundation, which ranked world’s 22 largest food and beverage manufacturers, including Unilever, Nestle, Danone, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.
The rankings were done on nutrition policies, practices and disclosure including responsible advertising, claims and labelling requirements. The index is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome Trust and Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.
The ‘Access to Nutrition Index 2016′ is led by Unilever, followed by Nestle and Danone, with no company scoring over 6.4 out of a total score of 10. The research rates food and beverage companies with respect to policies and practices followed globally, including India, but does not give specific ratings for countries or regions.
Explaining the significance of the research, Inge Kauer, executive director of Access to Nutrition Foundation that develops and publishes the index, told TOI, “Not only does the benchmarking help industry, nutrition experts and civil society to measure companies’ contributions to improved nutrition against best practices standards, investors in F&B companies are increasingly taking into consideration the access to nutrition index (ATNI) rankings, while it also enables the industry to improve policies so as to help consumers around the globe eat better food.”
“Nestle India products conform to international quality standards. While Nestle India has already pioneered the Nutritional Compass on its product packs, it has also started displaying GDA (guideline daily amount) labellings on some of the products and will include more and more products with GDA labelling in due course,” a company spokesperson said.
The 2016 index says while some companies have taken positive steps since the last index in 2013, the industry as a whole is moving far too slowly.
“Certain companies, particularly those headquartered in the US (including General Mills, Kraft, Heinz, Kellogg’s and ConAgra), seem systematically to apply lower or no-standards and less responsible practices in unregulated markets or those with low levels of regulation. This is a cause for concern. Companies should help to tackle global nutrition challenges not because they are forced to by regulators (or the threat of regulatory action) but because they can make a substantial contribution to public health,” the report says.
In a pilot study done earlier, the organization had studied companies including Coca-Cola, Nestle, Unilever, PepsiCo, Britannia, Mother Dairy, ITC, and Parle.
“By 2030, half of world population would be overweight and bulk of that would be in developing countries… it is something that is getting attention now. Our hope is that the companies really start to focus on this more, as it is not only in their social responsibility but also in their financial interest, as consumers worldwide are increasingly demanding healthier foods,” she added.
With reference to MNCs, in India, Kauer said it is essential they offer healthy and affordable products but also have strong labelling so that consumers can make responsible choices. It is important to have responsible marketing for adults, and children, and list down information in the label which is correct and clear, and their nutrition claims are correct and if there’s any misunderstanding and complaints, companies need to address it immediately.
Given their global reach, food and beverage companies have a powerful role to play alongside governments and international organizations in helping to tackle this crisis, and should forge innovative partnerships.

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