Indian authorities have urged greater investment in the functional foods sector to join the battle against malnutrition and obesity, and promote wellness among the country’s 1.1bn population.
At a recent meeting in Mumbai entitled, "Innovations in Food Processing & Ingredients towards Healthy India" hosted by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and sponsored by Coca-Cola among others, attendees were told investment in functional foods could help battle the rise of lifestyle diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Dr KD Yadav, president of the Mumbai chapter of the Association of Food Scientists and Technologists (India), Mumbai chapter, said: "With growing concern towards increased lifestyle based diseases and increasing consumer awareness, focus on health and wellness, the saying "prevention is better than cure" shall prevail. It is going to be the base for increased consumer expectation and demand for functional foods, food for specific dietary uses and nutraceuticals because of their ability to address several diseases."
FSSAI chief executive officer VN Guar said Indian state governments were spending 25 per cent of their budgets on public health, and five per cent by the national government.
"Indians face two types of diseases – short-term like food-borne diseases or any other small remedial illness, and long-term diseases like malnutrition and obesity. About 60-70 per cent of diseases caused in India are because of the wrong food.”
Guar told F&B News the FSSAI had drafted a regulation to aid functional foods development, which was in discussion stage at ministerial level and among the public.
“The law ministry will now take months to seek public response and notify it again,” he said.
Sessions highlighted the importance of grain development in India, as the consumption of grains is already high.
General Mills’ Arun Bansal, ITQ direct said whole grain research was on the rise.
"Internationally, big food processors are moving towards whole grain as it offers vital vitamins,” Bansal said. “Breads, cakes, noodles brands are shifting towards whole grains as the essential ingredients. Recently, many pasta companies are using whole grains."
Dr Kalpagam Polasa, a researcher at the National Institute of Nutrition and FSSAI member, highlighted the importance of efficacy and safety scientific backing.
"The regulatory agency all over the world uses scientific evidences to approve/disapprove marketing of functional foods carrying certain health claims,” she said. “Unquestionably the functional foods are going to impact the Indian food industry in a significant way and development of these products based on sound science will help grow the Indian functional food market."