Eat Right India

27 August 2020

Source: OpenIDEO

The initiative by FSSAI seeks to build a movement across India toward healthier diets. This will be achieved through a systems-based approach for reducing food waste and increasing food safety through robust regulatory systems, improving food hygiene and sanitation across the value chain, changing food environments through awareness and capacity-building campaigns, and increasing access to and affordability of healthy foods for a population projected to be 1.64 billion in 2050.

Eat right movement combines regulatory action with supportive action. It includes improving the hygiene and sanitation across the value chain. Almost 300,000 Food Safety Supervisors for food service establishments have been trained and certified. Hygiene rating of restaurants, sweet and meat shops has begun. Clusters of Clean Street Food Hubs, Fruit and Vegetable markets are being certified. Food environments are being transformed through a settings-based approach in the Eat Right Home, Eat Right School and Eat Right Campus initiatives.

Over 35,000 schools have already been enrolled. Outreach efforts such as the ‘Swasth Bharat Yatra’, a pan-India cyclothon inspired by Mahatma Gandhi (Annexure 1,2,3,4) to nudge citizens to eat right, have energized the state machinery and reached 25 million Indians.

Eat Right India was showcased to 25 countries at the World Bank’s Lighthouse event and WHO-SEARO side-event in 2019. It has been endorsed by international food systems and global food safety experts. (Annexure 5a, 5b, 6, 7) With its ‘whole of government’ and ‘whole of society’ approach, embedded in its vision, it has the potential to impact over a billion people.

Eat Right India has an ambitious vision of transforming India’s food environment. It adopts a judicious mix of regulatory, capacity building, collaborative and empowerment tools and combines supportive actions to its primary regulatory mandate. It adopts a ‘food systems approach’ to address the issues in a holistic manner.

To achieve its vision work in the following areas will be prioritized:

  • Create robust food regulatory system that includes setting science-based, globally-benchmarked standards, credible food testing, surveillance, and enforcement activities. Setting standards on use of excess salt, sugar and fat; use of recyclable plastics and tougher implementation of safety and health standards. This will help solve for food wastage and food safety without health and environmental impacts.
  • The second area will focus on improving hygiene and sanitation across the value chain through a graded approach. Capacity building through training and certification for all businesses including unorganized petty food vendors, hygiene ratings for medium and small businesses, and organizing vendors in clean clusters and hubs. Promotion of self-compliance by big food businesses will be prioritized. In order to reach out to the large informal sector and small and medium enterprises, scalable models and innovative approaches would be needed.
  • The third area is about changing food environments by taking a settings-based approach and targeting people at home, school, workplace and outside through training and capacity building and generating awareness.
  • Fourth is mass mobilization to nudge citizens to eat right. To initiate a people’s movement to create demand side push for safe food, healthier and suitable diets is needed.

This would require coordinated action by diverse group of stakeholders – the government at national, state and local level, food (and even non-food) businesses, civil society and consumer organizations, professionals of food and nutrition, farmers and farmers organizations, science and research institutions and others – using their combined skills, assets and capabilities to achieve the shared goal.

Apart from these, realigning and repurposing of current subsidy regime in agriculture and food sector to favour healthier food environment and sustainable farm practices would be critical. For instance, a relative increase in prices of wheat and rice through gradual phasing out of subsidies in their production along with a relative decrease in price of fruits and vegetables, milk, meat and oils through targeted subsidies will create healthy food environment and move farmers towards more sustainable farm practices. This must however be accompanied with direct transfers and reskilling of farmers to ensure that there is no livelihood lost in transition.