The man behind Bournvita losing its ‘health drink’ tag warns that biscuits, ketchup are next!

The Commerce and Industry Ministry has informed e-commerce sites like Amazon to remove mislabelled products from the 'health drink' category.

ByChetana Belagere

Published Apr 14, 2024 | 8:00 AMUpdatedApr 14, 2024 | 10:38 AM


It’s been a year since Bournvita filed a case against nutritionist and influencer Revant Himatsingka, also known as Food Pharmer, for his Instagram video criticising the chocolate malt drink’s high sugar content.

The video criticising the Cadbury-made drink went viral with over 12 million views.

Now, the government, on 10 April, directed e-commerce platforms, like Amazon, to remove all drinks, including Bournvita and similar products, from the “health drink” category.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued an advisory noting that the term “health drink” lacks definition under the Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act 2006 or any rules by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and Mondelez, the owner of Bournvita, Cadbury, and other major brands.

According to a notification, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), a statutory body under Section 3 of the Commission of Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005, concluded after investigation that the term “health drink” lacks an official definition in relevant regulations by FSSAI and Mondelez India Food Pvt Ltd.

Also Read: Doctors, scientists come out in support of influencer who outed Bournvita

A man on a mission

Advisory to e-commerce sites. (Supplied)

Advisory to e-commerce sites. (Supplied)

As after the Ministry’s advisory, social media, especially X, brimmed with congratulatory messages for Revant Himatsingka.

But why are netizens crediting him for this move?

In April 2023, Revant’s video on Bournvita’s false marketing gained traction, where he critiqued its slogan “Tayyari Jeet Ki” (Preparing for Victory), suggesting it could lead to diabetes rather than success.

He dissected the drink’s ingredients, refuted its purported health benefits, and highlighted its high sugar content and potentially carcinogenic components.

The video’s widespread circulation and critical perspective stirred complications when Mondelez India responded with a legal notice, demanding its removal within 24 hours.

Revant complied, stating that he had no intention to engage in a legal dispute and apologised to Cadbury for any unintended infringement or defamation.

“I apologise to Cadbury for making the video. I did not plan or intend to infringe any trademark or defame any company nor do I have the interest or resources to participate in any court cases and I request MNCs to not take this forward legally,” he said in a statement.

Also Read: NCPCR asks Mondelez India to withdraw all ‘misleading’ ads

A battle lost but a war won

Mondelez India disputed Revant’s claims about Bournvita’s sugar content, labeling his statements “unscientific” and accusing him of distorting facts. It emphasised the drink’s nutritional fortification and safety, asserting compliance with regulatory guidelines.

In a formal response, Mondelez asserted that the drink is fortified with essential nutrients such as Vitamin A, C, D, iron, zinc, and copper, which have been part of its recipe for 70 years.

“Every serving of 20 grams of Bournvita contains 7.5 grams of added sugar, which is approximately one-and-a-half teaspoon. This is much less than the daily recommended intake limits of sugar for children… All ingredients are safe, approved for use, and within permissible limits as per regulatory guidelines,” the company stated.

Subsequently, in April 2023, the NCPCR issued a notice to Mondelez, urging correction of misleading advertisements, packaging, and labels. The Commission is aimed at safeguarding children’s rights against deceptive marketing practices.

In a letter addressed to Deepak Iyer, President of Mondelez International India, the NCPCR remarked, “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.”

Happy with the outcome, Revant said, “I made the video and was slapped with a legal notice asking me to take it down. Top doctors and even the government supported me and asked Cadbury to take down their packaging.”

Also Read: No such thing as ‘health drinks’, deems FSSAI

Hasn’t stopped with Bournvita 

Revant’s persistence has gone beyond Bournvita.

Despite deleting the video, he has continued to expose brands like Real Juice, Tang, Maggi, and Sting Energy, facing legal challenges in return. His efforts against FMCG companies gained recognition. Even Forbes India featured him.

“Maggi Ketchup was kind enough to change their recipe and reduce sugar content by 22 percent,” he told South First.

Revant now champions four main goals:

  1. Stop FMCGs from marketing junk food as healthy
  2. Promote clean businesses
  3. Encourage Indians to scrutinise labels
  4. Educate Indians on label interpretation

“Next on the agenda are biscuits and ketchup,” Revant revealed to South First.

Revant expressed delight in India’s stance, hailing it as a promising start. “This is great news for India. It is just a beginning,” he said.

He emphasised the need for scrutiny not only in malt beverages but also in biscuits and ketchup, urging the government to enact stronger front-of-package labeling requirements.

While acknowledging the existing back-of-package labeling standards, Revant is advocating for mirroring this information on the front.

“Just like we have warning labels for cigarettes on the pack, likewise, we can have warning labels for high-sugar products, high-fat products, and high-salt products,” he explained.

Echoing Revant’s sentiments, Dr Arun Gupta, Convenor of NAPi and a former member of the Prime Minister’s Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges, said that the FSSAI lauded the move as a step towards regulating unhealthy food products.

“I would like to see the definition of ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ drinks or food products to set the record straight on such claims,” he told South First.

“Future steps that the Union government could take are front-of-the-pack labels and restrictions on marketing of products that are ‘unhealthy’,” he added.

(Edited by Kamna Revanoor)