Amitabh Bachchan’s biscuit promotion annoys health experts
Dr Gupta, a child health and nutrition advocate, told TNIE they had written to the Bollywood actor on December 28 but haven’t heard from him yet.
NEW DELHI: The Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest-India (NAPi), a national think-tank of independent medical experts, paediatricians and nutritionists, has written to Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan against promoting a biscuit brand which they claim is unhealthy.
In the letter to Bachchan, NAPi said they learned of his "association with Britannia Milk Bikis Biscuits through a recent KBC Junior commercial aired on television, YouTube, and other social media platforms."
The NAPi letter said, "We are shocked and surprised to learn that you have chosen to endorse ‘Britannia Milk Bikis’ biscuits on a children's TV programme. We want to draw attention to the fact that the advertisement for the biscuit brand misleads consumers by equating an unhealthy, ultra-processed and pre-packaged food product which is an industrial formulation, with real foods like 'atta roti' and a glass of milk."
Dr Arun Gupta, paediatrician and convener of NAPi, and one of the letter's signatories told TNIE that the commercial is deceptive and discredits home-cooked, authentic foods. He said the biscuit has high sugar, high-fat, and high-sodium product and contains “23.4 g of sugar per 100 g, 17.8 g of fat, and 287 mg of sodium per 100 g” and thus doesn’t meet the criteria stipulated by World Health Organisation (WHO) South-East Asia Region in its nutrition profiling of products.
"This is harmful to children as increased consumption may contribute to childhood obesity and type -2 diabetes and other non-communicable diseases in later life. Much evidence is available in the public domain that these products are addictive. It is essentially a high-sugar product, or what is now referred to as empty calories, and is neither healthy food nor nutritious," the letter further said.
Gupta said the advertisement also claims to have the same energy as animal milk despite containing ingredients like "sweetened condensed partially skimmed milk solids." It also contains additives like emulsifiers, raising agents and artificial milk flavouring substances, he added.
"We fear that this advertisement will influence families and children, may displace real family foods, and may lead to addiction to high sugar unhealthy pre-packaged food products, eventually putting children’s health at risk. Thus, your association with Britannia Milk Bikis is not in the spirit of promoting optimal nutrition for children and adolescents," the letter said.
They also reminded the actor that in 2014, he had renounced his association with Pepsi due to its health implication on children. In 2018, he had also denied association with Horlicks on the same ground. "We believe that such an association will also harm your reputation as a socially conscious artist," the think-tank said.
"Finally, we urge you to end your association with Britannia Milk Bikis and request you to avoid endorsing high sugar, sodium, and fat products in the future in the public interest."
Dr Gupta, a child health and nutrition advocate, told TNIE they had written to the Bollywood actor on December 28 but haven’t heard from him yet. "We will be sending him another letter next week."
He said Food Safety Standards Act (FSS) Act 2006 prohibits the misleading advertisement of food products and also the Consumers Protection Act 2019 section 2 (28).
The expert said they have been monitoring the advertisements of ultra-processed food (UPFs) and found that it’s not uncommon to see UPF advertisements on TV, social media and in newspapers. "There is overwhelming evidence that the UPFs are harmful to human health in several ways beginning with overconsumption, obesity, type-2 diabetes, several types of cancers, heart diseases, and overall mortality," he added.