So let’s celebrate Gopichand. Hope his breed will increase. We need him not just for sports excellence, but also for our health.

Sugary brands refuse to self-regulate need celebs to create health-awareness Sunita NarainFacebook
news Environment Saturday, September 17, 2016 - 12:39

Here are some factoids that environmentalist Sunita Narain throws at us in her latest column in Down to Earth magazine. - The proposed amendments to Consumer Protection Act providing punishment to celebrities for false claims in endorsements are toothless.

“The same amendment provides that there will be no liability if precautions are taken and due diligence is done before deciding to endorse a product. In other words, this amendment really amounts to nothing.” - Sugary brands spend massively on “influence marketing” to turn unhealthy soft drinks into symbols of fun, happiness and glamour.

“In 2014, the two major companies - Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola - spent US $866 million in the US alone to advertise unhealthy drinks.” - Brands often try to obfuscate warnings about sugar in government diet guidelines. “… cola companies did the same in a recent Indian government committee (in which I was a member) by insisting that the word junk food be replaced by an acronym HFSS—food high in fat, salt and sugar. Business must go on as usual.” Badminton champion and coach Pulela Gopichand’s recent, open refusal to not endorse brands selling sugary and aerated drinks has renewed the vigour in the anti-junk food campaign.

As Narain points out, from Mahendra Singh Dhoni to Shah Rukh Khan, several celebrities have made money by promoting products that are harmful to our health. And despite the fact that the new amendments to the consumer protection act are toothless, brands and celebrity managers are crying foul of it.

The sugar industry’s assault on our health through manipulative research studies and marketing has a long history. It was recently revealed that the industry enlisted Harvard scientists several decades ago to influence how we eat, and conveniently shift the blame of obesity from sugar to fats.

Governments across the world are learning that self-regulation does not work, points out Narain, like the government of New Zealand which has a code that states, “persons or characters well-known to children shall not be used in advertisements to promote food as to undermine a healthy diet”. But even as we need clear regulations against endorsements of unhealthy products, what could help further are more people like Gopichand.

And he isn’t the only one. Amitabh Bachchan recently stated that he had stopped endorsing Pepsi after a child told him aerated drinks were poison. Shilpa Shetty too had reportedly refused to endorse such brands. As Narain states, “So let’s celebrate Gopichand. Hope his breed will increase. We need him not just for sports excellence, but also for our health.”

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