The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) on Wednesday, 26 April, asked Mondelez India-owned brand Bournvita to withdraw all “misleading” advertisements, packaging and labels after a video claimed that the health drink has high sugar content.
In a notice to the confectionery major, NCPCR also asked it to send within seven days a detailed explanation or report to apprise the panel on the matter.
NCPCR receives complaint
The NCPCR said it has received a complaint alleging that Bournvita promotes itself as a health drink improving children’s growth and development, but that it contains a high percentage of sugar and other substances that might impact a child’s health.
In the notice to Deepak Iyer, president (India) Mondelez International, the child rights body said,” The commission in this regard observes that the product manufactured by your company is misleading the customers through its product packaging and advertisements. The commission observes that your product’s labelling, packaging, display and advertisement claims are misleading for the general public.”
The product’s labelling and packaging also fail to acknowledge the correct information regarding the contents used in the Bournvita health drink, the NCPCR said.
It asked Mondelez International to review and withdraw all “misleading advertisements, packaging and labels, and further send a detailed explanation/report to apprise the commission in the said matter within seven days”.
The Bournvita controversy
The controversy started after a social media influencer, who had spoken up about the amount of sugar in Bournvita, was forced to remove his post when it went viral. Subsequently, food scientists and doctors slammed the brand and came out in support of the influencer.
Revant Himatsingka, who is known as FoodPharmer on Instagram where he has over 1.3 lakh followers, had shared an Instagram Reels calling out Cadbury for advertising Bournvita as a “health drink”, despite its high sugar content.
In the video, he questioned Cadbury — the manufacturer of Bournavita — for the drink’s “nutritional value” and said that the brand’s tagline “Taiyari jeet ki” (Getting ready to win) should be changed to “Tayyari diabetes ki”.
Responding to the viral videos, Bournvita had earlier said that over the last seven decades, it has “earned the trust of consumers in India by being a scientifically formulated product that adheres to quality standards and complies with the laws of the land”.
“We would again like to reinforce that the formulation has been scientifically crafted by a team of nutritionists and food scientists to offer the best of taste and health. All our claims are verified and transparent and all ingredients have regulatory approvals. All the necessary nutritional information is mentioned on the pack for consumers to make informed choices,” a Bournvita spokesperson had said.
Scientists and doctors hit out
Shashi Iyengar, a metabolic health coach, said that the concept of “health drinks” has been implanted in us from an early stage of life. Aggressive marketing, with celebrities pushing it, has given a magical aura around it and even he has taken these as a kid.
“Some punch lines used: ‘__ is the secret of my energy’, ’Tyaari Jeet ki’, ‘Strong bones. Strong muscles, Active brain’, ‘Taller, stronger, sharper’, ‘Immunity booster’. Do we really need these with tall unproven claims? A glass of full fat milk is better. We don’t need these sugary junks,” he tweeted.
Dr Cyriac Abby Philips — clinician-scientist popularly known by his Twitter handle TheLiverDoc — in a tweet said that the product claimed improved brain activity, improved muscles, improved immune system, and improved bone health.
But, “all of these require empirical evidence for confirmation”, he said in the tweet.
He further said that Cadbury has made a statement that they have designed the product scientifically, which means there must be published studies backing their claims.
(With PTI inputs)