What is this ‘Label Padhega India’ challenge that cricketers, CEOs and even actor Samantha is taking up?

Revant Himatsingka aka Foodpharmer is on a mission to improve health literacy by educating people on the importance of reading food labels.

ByChetana Belagere

Published May 16, 2024 | 3:00 PMUpdatedMay 16, 2024 | 3:00 PM

Label Padhega India.

A not-so-quiet revolution is sweeping across the country to change India’s shopping habits with several celebrities accepting a challenge to read labels on food products.

The revolution is meant to change the habit of adding food products wrapped in eye-catching gaudy packets to the shopping cart, perhaps with a glance at the manufacturing and expiry dates.

Labels on the packs, however, reveal more than the dates. It speaks about what fuels our body when consumed. And most of us eat without knowing what we are really eating.

Revanth Himatsingka, who goes by the handle FoodPharmer on social media, is a rare shopper, who reads the label. The habit has made him take on food conglomerates, forcing them to change their habits.

For instance, he noticed that Lays — preferred by many, especially children — used palmolein oil to make chips sold in India, whereas, the same firm used vegetable oil in the US. He waged a battle, and Lays India was forced to change its ways.

Himatsingka threw a challenge, to read the labels before purchasing any product. He rallied celebrities, CXOs, cricketers, doctors, nutritionists, and movie actors to encourage Indians to look beyond the surface, to know what is being consumed.

His challenge is not about better consumer habits, but crafting a new legacy of health consciousness in the country, one label at a time.

He named the challenge Label Padhega India, a move to ignite a transformative dialogue and action.

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

David taking on Goliaths

Speaking to South First, Himatsingka said brands should be exposed for employing deceptive marketing gimmicks to promote their products as “100 percent healthy,” while concealing harmful preservatives and additives in the fine print of nutritional labels.

“Even while they say the products are ‘100 percent healthy’, they don’t specifically list the harmful preservatives and additives in the front of the product but conceal it in fine prints behind the product,” he said.

“The Label Padhega India campaign will bring to the fore all such products besides ensuring people are well informed before they make a choice to buy a pack of any such harmful product,” he added.

Food crusader Himatsingka is a David taking on Goliaths. He became a viral sensation after he did a video on Bournvita, manufactured by Cadbury, a subsidiary of Mondelez International. The video highlighted excessive sugar in the drink labelled as a “health drink”.

The video went on social media and even landed Himatsingka in legal soup.

Mondelez sent a legal notice, demanding him to take down the video. He complied. However, his mission was accomplished and several people, who were unaware of the sugar content in this product, became aware of it.

Meanwhile, Cadbury reduced the sugar content in Bournvita by 14.4 percent in December 2023.

The Union government launched an investigation and recently directed all e-commerce firms to remove Bournvita and other similar products from the “health drink” category.

Following the directive, Horlicks, along with Bournvita, dropped the “health drink” tag. Himatsingka continued making several such videos on various other products. Lays was one among them.

Despite being slapped with six legal notices, Himatsingka continues the fight. With more than three million followers across social media platforms, he is dedicated to promoting healthy living and sustainable food practices.

Label Padhega India challenge

The past few weeks witnessed several controversies surrounding spices-mix, sugar content in milk for babies, protein powder, health drinks, etc., Himatsingka said.

Label Padhega India initiative aims to raise awareness about the hidden dangers lurking behind the nutritional labels of packaged foods, highlighting the ill effects of preservatives and unhealthy additives on consumers’ health,” he explained.

“There is an alarming trend of children being lured into consuming sugary ‘healthy’ drinks and powders, promising nutrition,” Himatsingka emphasised the critical role dietary habits play in shaping individual health outcomes.

He urged consumers to be mindful of the ingredients hidden behind flashy packaging. To stop the unhealthy trend of consuming ingredients without knowing them, Himatsingka even created an anthem, “You are what you eat”.

The anthem, being endorsed by several celebrities, highlights the need for transparency and accountability in the food industry.

Read and post

Himatsingka initiated a unique social media challenge for his audience, asking them to tag three individuals and urge them to read the nutritional labels on packaged foods.

“If we all start reading labels, companies will not be able to falsely market the products,” he explained his intention behind throwing the challenge.

As part of the challenge, the user/consumer has to post a picture of the product after reading the labels on any of the social media platforms and challenge three others to do the same.

The challenge was announced on 11 May, and interestingly, the massive “health movement” to combat false marketing in packaged foods went viral almost immediately with several people taking up the challenge.

From celebs to common man to people in rural India to MSMEs, many of them have taken up the challenge.

Celebs supporting FoodPharmer are cricketer Dinesh Karthik, Abhinav Bindra, Flying Beast, actor-anchor Archana Puran Singh, dancer Terence Lewis, Ankita Bainyapuria, Ankur Warikoo, Tech Burner, Thugesh, Saurav Joshi, Abhi and Niyu, Luke Coutinho, and several others.

 

Himatsingka said people all over the country are taking up the challenge. His Instagram video has already received more than 7.5 lakh views.

Recently, actor Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Shark Tank judges, and cofounder of Hotmail Sameer Bhatia, besides several people from rural India have been posting the videos.

Also Read: ‘Health drinks’ no more: After Bournvita, Horlicks and Boost drop the tag

ICMR too asks people to read labels

Incidentally, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has asked people to carefully read food labels.

In its recent dietary guidelines for Indians released on 8 May, the ICMR cautioned people that the information provided on packaged food labels could be misleading.

“Health claims on packaged food are designed to catch consumer’s attention and convince them that the product is healthy. Always read food label information to know about the contents inside the pack,” the guidelines stated.

Details about the “Label Padhega India” challenge are available on his Instagram and YouTube handles. He has also released an anthem for the campaign.

(Edited by Majnu Babu)