In the last week itself, we came across a new amendment for packaged food products – that all the packages will carry traffic signal colours. Red for unhealthy food High in Fats, Sugars and Salt, Amber / Yellow for products that can be consumed but under control and Green for those products that are high in good nutrients and are healthy for consumption.
This rule was first drafted for schools and institutions – where children can make a choice between good and bad food products. Many such amendments have come in the past that have tried to build a fierce food safety system for packaged food products. These products are consumed on the maximum level by consumers of all types – pickles, instant noodles, edible oil, dry fruits and every other product that is manufactured, processed and packed for consumption can affect a large population, if the product is unsafe or unhealthy.
What are packaged food products?
Packaged food products are those that are semi-processed for instant consumption. Products like cornflakes, bread, noodles, coffee, biscuits and such everyday products are consumed on a large scale every day. Speaking strictly about the corporate arena, these products are often found as popular snacking options during meetings, working hours and during canteen breaks.
However, not all of these products are healthy. Noodles made of all-purpose flour (Maida), sugared cornflakes, poor quality oil used in biscuits and excess salt & oil in pickles often ends up these products into the ‘Unhealthy’ category.
Risks and its measures associated with the consumption of packaged food products
While many diets and nutrition experts ask us to avoid diverse food products, it becomes practically impossible to keep these food products at bay. Corporate companies have their own saga to share; long working hours, hectic schedule, poor quality of living and mental stress has pushed the sedentary lifestyle into unhealthy life and many employees in the age group of 30 – 45 years are prone to non-communicable diseases.
What should be done to curb these? Let’s find out!
Risk 1: The list of ingredients and the nutrients present in the product cannot be differentiated as healthy or unhealthy.
Face it, we generally have no clue about what kind of ingredients or nutrients make your product. Few words strike the chord – oats, sugar-free, trans-fats, etc – but what goes along with it, like edible oil, flavours, caffeine, carbohydrates, are confusing because these nutrients can come in different forms and not all are good for health.
Measure 1: Read the entire nutritional label. See the serving size and the total net weight of the product. Often people are confused between the total kCal present in per serving and in the total weight. Calculate each nutrient before consuming the food. Also, check all the ingredients. While the product may read ‘Sugar-Free’, often high carbohydrates can be in the form of all-purpose flour, corn flour and gluten that can quickly convert into sugar, raising its levels in the blood.
These carbs are often more damaging and are found in biscuits, cereals, bread and instant noodles.
Risk 2: Perishable food products often need to be consumed within a few days. However, to save on the budget, many corporate caterers use old products that are long stored in refrigerators. These may look good, but they pose a great danger to the health once consumed.
Measure 2: In here, the Facility Manager and Employee Health and Safety Executive can play major roles with the employees in the picture. First in First Out [FIFO] and First Expired First Out [FEFO] policies should be practiced. Only small portions of perishable food should be purchased and stored to prevent loss due to product gone bad. Also, open kitchens can work wonders where employees can see the product prepared right in front.
Expiry date or shelf life of the packaged food product is the first thing you need to check for. The expiry date is a mandatory aspect that you will find on every packaged food. Nothing should be consumed beyond the specified time period.
The next thing to look for is the package. There are times that due to improper storage conditions, the food goes bad before the expiry period. Often this is neglected and the after effects are borne by the consumers. If a food is gone bad, you will often find the package swollen or puffed up, sometimes it leaks or it can also start to give out a bad odour.
Risk 3: Often people in the corporates end up choosing unhealthy products to satiate their hunger, causing a rise in their body sugar levels and causing a high risk of health problems
Measure 3: Make smart choices. Instead of going for a packaged instant noodles, opt for groundnuts, dates, cold-pressed juices without sugars and curd that can keep you off the hunger pangs for long. Popcorns, flaxseeds, dry fruits make excellent snacking options. You will even find organic loaves of bread with no added sugars and preservatives, whole grain rusks and oatmeal that can give you the fill. The only thing to remember – do not combine them with added cheese, salt, oil or sugar.
Risk 4: Often not looked at, but health claims on the packaged food products can be a huge selling point for food businesses. However, often these end up being misleading and products that cause more harm than good is consumed.
Measure 4: Look at the health claims that are often mentioned in the smallest fonts. You will often find disclaimers that can bust the claims right at the aisle. Even when you are hungry by simply looking at your work desk, try looking at that packaged food product offered to you by your colleague. Might save you the frequent trips to the hospitals.
Risk 5: Allergies! Though the Indian population is not as averse to allergic products as their US counterparts, the prevalence of allergies simply cannot be neglected. Often people are not aware that they are allergic to some ingredient, causing reactions and disorders. Packaged food products can carry allergic components – even if not directly added, cross-contamination can be possible due to the use of the same processing unit for different products.
Measure 5: For the Food Businesses, it is essential for packaged food products’ label carries a cautionary note about the presence of any unintentional allergen contamination. Unwanted consumption can cause reactions that can be fatal to the health of the individual. Hence, companies need to have a medical back up for such cases. Also, any packaged product purchased by the company should not have allergy-causing ingredients – if present, then the same should be made aware before it is served to the consumer.
There can be more risks involved; however, these 5 pose a real threat to the health of the employees.
For more information on Food Safety in your company, connect with us on +91 88799 34204 or email on firstname.lastname@example.org.