Harsh Vardhan, the new health minister of the country, has responded to a letter from public health professionals about celebrities endorsing junk food. He wrote, “Are. Good suggestion. We will follow.”
The letter has been addressed to celebrities from Bollywood and entertainment such as Salman Khan, Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh, Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt and Kapil Sharma. They have also written to Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh.
“Since you are involved in marketing of unhealthy foods as a brand ambassador, may we request you as responsible citizens of the India, to reconsider your decision and call off such endorsements,” say the health professionals from Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest who have written this letter.
Ranbir Kapoor advertises for Coca Cola, Ranveer Singh for Thumbs Up, Deepika Padukone features in an advertisement of Good Day biscuits, Varun Dhwan for Frooti, Salman Khan for Appy Fizz and Kapil Sharma’s show endorses Maggi noodles. Virat Kohli advertises for Dominos Pizza and Yuvraj Singh for Cadburys.
While NAPI has received a reply from Harsh Vardhan’s office, they have also sent letters to the celebrities mentioned and also to Indian officials like Rajiv Kumar and Vinod Paul (from the NITI Aayog).
NAPI says that these celebrities are appearing in ads and endorsing food that is high in salt and sugar and is ultra processed, and that “None of the advertisements declare the amount of sugar or salt in the product.”
According to their calculation, a single packet of instant noodles itself gives a person 42% of the daily recommended sodium intake. Many of the sugary drinks, chocolates, energy drinks, sweet wafers, biscuit and cola drinks which they analysed were found to be crossing the sugar threshold recommended by WHO. One 300 ml of cola can push a person upto 66% of their daily sugar requirement.
Food which is high in salt and sugar and which is ultra processed, can trigger obesity, diabetes and cancer. NAPI has also informed the celebrities of a published in the British Medical Journal that suggests that there is a possibility of a link between sugary drinks and cancer.
“Aggressive marketing of these foods increases their consumption and replaces the real foods,” says NAPI.