Additives are OK, excess is harmful
Hyderabad: About 12,000 food additives are allowed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India as they are in accordance with the acceptable daily intake. However, they have to be used within certain limits and consumers should read labels carefully before consuming these products.
This process has been scientifically carried out over the last year, as Indian consumers are now opting for ready-to-eat, preserved foods and also foods with additional nutrient values for health benefits. Biscuits with fiber, oats with added multigrain, gluten free, steel cut oats and food with less sugar for diabetics require added ingredients to preserve them during packaging and transportation till it reaches the consumer.
The growing food industry needed streamlining of these additives, state experts. A senior scientist with the National Institute of Nutrition said, “An additive like the flavour enhancer MSG is added to give food the ‘lip smacking’ taste. But it has to be regulated and used in controlled levels. To ensure that the proper standards are set, FSSAI took up this massive exercise and brought the levels at par with global standards.” In doing so, they have ensured that food processors preserve the nutritional quality of the food and do not reduce it with additives.
Nutritionist Sujatha Stephen with Maxcure Hospitals said, “An additive is also used to add an item in the normal diet which may not be a part of it. But is it really required for the consumer is a point that they must be aware of. At the same time, a healthy adult has to opt for natural foods. Ready-to-eat foods can be opted for once in a while. But if it is a regular affair than they are adding more synthetic food to diet which is not good.”
The literate too ignore food labels
People hardly read the labels while buying off-the-shelves food. In a recent workshop carried out by a city nutritionist, it was revealed that hardly anyone followed the habit. Most people believe what their friends, colleagues or neighbours certify about a product rather than evaluate it themselves.
Nutritionist Sunitha Premlatha with Yashoda Hospitals said, “Reading the labels helps one to scientifically understand what is in the product and whether one actually needs it. It takes time and a bit of self-learning but in the long run people benefit by understanding their food better. “Presently, it is not being followed and people only choose based on their experience with the product.
The major nutrient which many young healthy adults and teenagers are missing out on is fiber whose requirements are not being met due to eating these processed foods on a daily basis.” An adult requires 40 gm of fiber per day but that is not adequately met. Similarly intake of sugar has to be 25 gm, or 6 teaspoons per day, but many people exceed the limit.”