Beware before you indulge your taste buds with junk food

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New Delhi, Mar 31: Big food brands are guilty of "large scale misbranding and misinformation" claimed Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi based NGO.

According to the NGO, many brands claim that they contain zero trans-fats even though tests showed that they have heavy doses of it.

The report said that most popular "junk foods contain very high levels of trans-fats, salts and sugar - which inevitably lead to severe ill health and diseases like obesity and diabetes."

The report revealed the names of 16 major food brands that included the list of big names like Maggi, MacDonald's foods, Top Ramen noodles, Haldiram's Aloo Bhujia and KFC's fried chicken.

The tests were carried out on potato chips, aloo bhujia, soft drinks, noodles, burgers, fried chicken and French fries showed that just one serving of these will "completely overturned one's daily diet chart."

According to the CSE report, the manufacturers of these products kept their consumers in dark over the real contents in the products.

"The NIN benchmark for maximum salt for one person is 6 gram, while the WHO puts it at 5 gram. The normal 80-gram packet of Maggi noodles that many of us gobble up almost on a daily basis has over 3.5 gram of salt - enough to take care of over 60 per cent of our daily salt intake," said the CSE giving an example.

The World Health Organization (WHO)and National Institute of Nutrition (NIN)prescribe how much sugar, salt, carbohydrates and fats each individual can ideally have everyday to stay healthy.

The CSE also said that the real threat was from the trans-fats disclosed by the companies.

According to the WHO, in a balanced diet, 1 percent should come from the trans fats. Thus an adult female can have have 2.1 gram of trans fats per day, while a male can have 2.6 gram and a child aged between 10-12 years can have 2.3 gram.

The CSE found that Haldi Ram, which claims to have no trans-fats contains 2.5 gram per 100 gram. Top Ramen Super Noodles (Masala) contains 0.7 gram of it per 100 gram. PepsiCo's Lays (Snack Smart) which claimed through its advertisements that the chips are healthy because they have zero trans fats, the CSE report found that every 100 grams of the snack contains 3.7 grams of trans fats.

"All products manufactured by PepsiCo in India are fully compliant with all the regulations, including those on labelling, prescribed by the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India)," said Pepsico. It said that the products under the brands-Lays, Kurkure, Uncle Chips and Cheetos brands are trans-fat free.

"We respect the work being done by organizations like CSE to improve consumers' understanding of healthy and balanced diets. Maggi is intended as a light meal and can safely be consumed as part of diversified balanced diet," said Nestle.

"In India we take a lot of effort to ensure our food is safe for our customers and have stringent quality processes at every stage. At McDonald's stores we use RBD Palmolein oil which is naturally trans-fat free," said Mc Donald's.

"A child eating one MacDonald's Happy Meals finishes up 90% of all his daily requirement of trans fats. The packet of Happy Meal makes absolutely no mention of this massive dosage of trans fats," said CSE.

"What makes junk food so unhealthy are the high levels of salt, sugar, fats and carbohydrates in them. Our new study, which looks at the nutritional value of these foods, is to make people aware of what these foods really contain and what they will do to our health," said CSE's director general Sunita Narain.

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