Junk …Food or Report?

The Centre for Science & Environment (CSE) is once again gunning for multinationals such as PepsiCo, KFC, McDonald’s, Maggi and Indian company, Haldirams, accusing them of misleading the public through wrong and insufficient information in the labeling.

The contention is that foods like potato chips, burgers, noodles, etc, contain bad fat, salt and sugar beyond permissible limits. And they go to list the daily permissible intake for adults and children.

This CSE exercise is not new. Every once in 2-3 years they come up with new findings and shout themselves from the rooftops, thumping their fists and seeking stricter regulations.

I’m not saying that all the facts and data present is hogwash. Perhaps, there’s lots of truth in it. Having said that, I for one wish to take a practical approach.

Now, I’m no scientist neither am I a ‘Foodie’ in the true sense of the word but I sure as hell am a consumer of the above mentioned foods and lot more. I love Burgers and during my travels abroad I never missed a chance to drop by at McDonalds, pick up a few burgers and Coke. At times I even breakfast on large Submarine Sandwiches.

CSE’s figures pertain to permissible daily intake and the harmful effects if consumed in excess. Agreed. I wonder how many resort to gluttonous eating of these foods on a daily basis? I mean, these are expensive and even college kids or bachelors with loads of cash wouldn’t sort of sit down at a fast food joint and tell the waiter, “A Chicken Burger, Potato Chips and a Pepsi every one hour, and half-a-dozen plates of KFC Chicken Wings and Coke to go along with, please!”

CSE wants the government to impose strict regulations on these companies for violating maximum recommended norms and that the labeling be more informative so that consumers are aware of the what they are eating.

Sure thing! So now, each time I buy a pack of Lays or sit down at a fast-food joint to eat a juicy burger Chicken Burger, must I open my quality control kit of Salt Content Tester or a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer to analyze the trans-fat content?

Come on, Man! I’m not James Bond who carries survival gear on my person, such as, a tracker in the heels of shoes or self-defense spray filled into a fancy ink pen clipped to the shirt pocket or briefcases that blow up in ones face if the latch is turned the wrong way.

I just eat the potato chips or the burger and sit back and enjoy it with a glass of chilled beer even if half the salt from the sea disappears.

The only instance I recall is of Elvis Presley who they say died of excessive hamburger eating. Poor chap; how much he must have loved those king-size burgers he consumed with gastronomical delight.

Another point. Why target multinationals always? On the one hand we want them to set shop here so that they bring in huge dollar investments and provide hundreds of jobs. Then, we run after them to sponsor sporting events, the IPL for instance, which has both, Pepsi and Coke as major sponsors. If they were to withdraw I can hardly imagine MTR or Ponnuswamy or Saravana Bhavan or Adiga’s making good the loss.

I wonder if the CSE has ever bothered to test roadside/street food. The Iddly, Dosa, Bhel Puri, Chinese Noodles, Fried Chicken, is actually extremely delicious. Each roadside cart is surrounded by people with plates in their hands enjoying the delicacies. What about the salt content, the quality of cooking oil, trans fats, general hygiene? Would they pass the CSE test? I don’t think so; and yet, people throng with family in tow to eat roadside/street food.

Maybe CSE can make a beginning testing the so-called Mineral Water manufactured by the unorganized sector with claims like “natural water straight from mountain springs”. And roadside ‘nimboo pani’ and sugarcane vendors use ice they claim is made from clean and pure water. Not too sure about that part, but on a hot, sweaty day they are real thirst quenchers.

Does the government have the balls to shut down street food vendors? Ridiculous. And erode the vote bank?

CSE, for a change, leave the multinationals alone.

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