India Tells PepsiCo to Help Make School Lunches Healthier

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India’s government is seeking help from an unlikely partner to improve the diets of millions of its hungriest : PepsiCo Inc. (PEP), the world’s largest snack maker. The ’s three-month old government asked PepsiCo to develop nutritious processed foods to be included school lunches around the country, Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said yesterday after a meeting with Pepsico Chief Executive Officer Indra Nooyi. The government’s Midday Meals program feeds more than 107 million each day, though widespread corruption and lack of oversight have led to dozens of recent years. Almost 900 million Indians hover just above starvation while falling short of being well-nourished, according to government data. “I suggested to them to research and develop products which will be healthy and will also contain proteins,” Badal told reporters New Delhi, following her meeting with Nooyi. “As people are becoming busy, the will be immensely benefited if such products are launched.” government-run schools in India get lunches that comprise a combination of rice, bread, lentils, vegetables and eggs, cooked according to local custom. The government gives grain and to local women’s groups to cook the hot meals. Narendra Modi’s government has allocated about 132 billion rupees ($2.2 billion) to fund program the current fiscal year, through March 2015. [eap_ad_1] Food Safety

The biggest failing of the program has been food safety, as widespread corruption and a disregard for hygiene protocols have led to of food poisoning, including one incident last year in which 23 children in north India died after eating a meal laced with an insecticide. “Safety is a problem in some places, and that can be fixed with proper oversight at the local level,” Vandana Prasad, national convenor of the the non-profit Public Resource Network, said in an interview. “No respectable dietitian or nutritionist will recommend processed foods over freshly cooked meals,” said Prasad, a former of the National Commission for of Child Rights. “The government’s policy is to favor big for everything, and hope that there will be some public good as a result.” PepsiCo should partner with India to conduct research into processed food products that can help curb iron deficiency, Badal told Nooyi. In reply, Nooyi said the company would work to provide products that are “healthy and nutritious,” according to the government statement after the meeting.

Sugar Content

Badal also asked Nooyi to reduce the sugar content of her company’s beverages. PepsiCo is the world’s second-largest soft-drinks maker. The World Organization predicts that about 31 percent of adult men in India will be overweight by 2015, an increase from 22 percent a decade earlier. PepsiCo India spokesman Pradeep Wadhwa didn’t reply to e-mailed questions about the Nooyi-Badal meeting, and there was no response to a call to his mobile phone. The Purchase, -based company said last year it will invest 330 billion rupees ($5.45 billion) in India together with partners by 2020 as it increases manufacturing and adds new products. Apart from carbonated beverages, PepsiCo also sells fruit juices, potato chips, fried snacks and oat-based breakfast cereal in India. In his first speech after being elected India’s leader in , Modi said his government was dedicated to improving the lives of the poor. Since then, he’s announced programs aimed at boosting poor people’s access to everything from toilets to banking services. (Bloomberg)