Updated: Dec 17, 2020
The Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), today announced the launch of its knowledge portal 'Meetha'. The portal, the first-of-its-kind in this region, seeks to be a source of complete information on sugar to the consumer. Sugar to India is as ancient as Yoga and Ayurveda itself. It firmly occupies the position of being one of the 'panchamrits' or nectars of life. An initiative of the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), established in 1932, the oldest industry association in India. Since its inception, ISMA has long been the interface between Government and the sugar industry (both private and public sugar mills) in the country. It has been at the forefront of sugar export in the country, spearheading export initiatives for the industry. The portal, www.meetha.org has been co-developed by PLR Communications.
These days, there is a lot of negative propaganda against sugar. Much baseless and unsubstantiated information is floating around about sugar. There is absolutely no scientific evidence or any research paper which concludes or establishes that consumption of sugar in itself leads to any particular disease, even like diabetes or dental caries. They do say that problems in the body come about only if a person is obese, which in turn can be caused by the consumption of too many calories and lack of physical activities/exercise. It is reiterated that the calories can come from any food and not only from sugar alone. ISMA feels that before the negative, unsubstantiated propaganda wrongly influences the consumers and misleads them, there is a need to counter such unfounded negativity and convey the right information to the consumers about sugar, and its impact on the body and health.
Accordingly, ISMA decided to start a campaign, including on social media, to educate and spread the awareness amongst the consumers on healthy eating and healthy lifestyle, as also debunk the myths surrounding sugar.
India is still a developing nation where a large population especially the poor consume sugar as an inexpensive and immediate source of energy. They can't and should not be deprived of their sugar, because of some unfounded and misleading campaigns against it.
The per capita sugar consumption in India of only 19 kilos per person per year, is much lower than the world average of 23 kilos. The developed countries like USA, UK, Germany, France, Singapore, Russia, New Zealand, Australia etc. as also several developing countries like Brazil, Thailand etc. have a per capita consumption of 35 to 50 kilos per person per year. The per capita consumption growth of sugar in India between 2000 and 2016 has been amongst the lowest in the world at around 1.25% per year, based on a simple average. This is despite a very impressive increase in income per person in the same period in India, which should have increased the sugar consumption at a much greater rate.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), New Delhi, the apex body for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research, and one of the oldest medical research bodies in the world, funded by the Government of India through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, in January 2020, had undertaken a first of its kind survey on sugar intake in India, and concluded as follows:
The intake of added sugar in metro cities in India was 19.5 grams per day., much lower to the level recommended by ICMR of 30 gram per day (WHO's recommendation is also much higher at 25 grams per day for a normal adult).
The ICMR report suggests that women take around 20.2 grams of added sugar in a day while men's intake of added sugar is 18.7 grams per day.
As a part of this campaign, ISMA will be holding workshops & webinars, where experts like nutritionists, dieticians, endocrinologists, public health specialists, medical practitioners, sugar producers and consumers etc., will share their expertise, ideas and knowledge on the subject. The purpose of running such a campaign is to give the right information to the consumers in a single platform, in a world where there is lot of confusion, with many opinions and views of self-appointed experts.
As an important step in this direction, ISMA has prepared a Portal, which would be a single point window for right information and knowledge to be shared amongst consumers and to educate the general public about various facets of sugar. Therefore, www.meetha.org, aims to be India's foremost and leading website providing a plethora of educative information about the consumption, utilization and most importantly the value of natural sugar.
The portal was launched by Mr. Sudhanshu Pandey, Secretary, Department of Food & PD, Government of India, via a virtual conference in presence of Mr. Shri Subodh Kumar Singh, Joint Secretary, Department of Food and Public Distribution, Government of India, and Mr. Vivek M. Pittie, President ISMA, Mr. Niraj Shirgaokar, Vice President, ISMA and Mr. Abinash Verma Director General, ISMA.
Mr. Sudhanshu Pandey, Secretary, Department of Food & PD, Government of India, said, "I want to congratulate ISMA for the important initiative taken to bust myths on sugar and spread the right awareness around sugar. The problem with misinformation is that it travels faster. But people need to take informed decision about food and nutrition. I also come from rural India, where there is cane juice, which is good for health. There are many such local food which needs promotion in alignment with the vision of the Hon'ble PM 'vocal about local' I was in Kenya, where I saw that in the hotel there was a huge queue where sugarcane juice was dispensed. We should also replicate such things in India. And look at its commercialization, in which associations can play an important role. We also need to advocate the message of positive acceptance of sugar in minds of consumers in regional languages. The portal should be developed in local regional languages so that narratives could be changed, and is more relevant in States like Maharashtra, UP etc. Also, internationally we need to propagate this as well. So, we need to develop this in some international language. Meetha.org is a great initiative. This portal will help spread and educate the right knowledge and information to people."
Mr. Shri Subodh Kumar Singh, Joint Secretary, Department of Food and Public Distribution, Government of India, said, "It's important to give correct information to people about sugar and bust all the myths on this. The world per capita sugar consumption is about 22.5 kg, but India being the top sugar consumer, consumes about 19 kg of sugar only and this has remained static for the last two decades or so. Its primarily due to rich people are not preferring sugar, though they eat a lot of junk. There is negative perception around sugar which needs to be eliminated, since sugar has been part of our lives since times immemorial. Meetha.org is excellent and will spread correct and scientific based information to people. It will have doctors, nutritionists and other experts in their fields to provide their inputs on sugar subject, which will be helpful for us. "In my opinion, sugar is not harmful to people, excess of anything is harmful."
Mr. Vivek M. Pittie, President, ISMA, said, "Its indeed a wonderful initiative as this knowledge portal will enable consumers across different classes to understand and know more about sugar and its related nutrition facts. It will further assist consumers in busting irrational myths about lifestyle and accordingly take informed decisions towards a balanced lifestyle. We hope that the consumers are able to learn from the portal."
Talking about the need for such a portal, Mr. Abinash Verma, Director General, ISMA said," These days there is a lot of negative propaganda against sugar. Much baseless and unsubstantiated information is floating around about sugar. There is absolutely no scientific evidence or any research paper which concludes or establishes that consumption of sugar in itself leads to any particular disease, even like diabetes or dental caries. They do say that problems in the body comes about only if a person is obese, which in turn can be caused by consumption of too many calories and lack of physical activities/exercise. It is reiterated that the calories can come from any food and not only from sugar alone. With the launch of this portal, we want to encourage consumers to interact with us and provide them with scientific information."
Mr. Vivek M. Pittie, President, ISMA said, "Its indeed a wonderful initiative as this knowledge portal will enable consumers across different classes to understand and know more about sugar and its related nutrition facts. It will further assist consumers in busting irrational myths about lifestyle and accordingly take informed decisions towards a balanced lifestyle. We hope that the consumers are able to learn from the portal."
Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) is a premier sugar organization in India. It is the interface between Government and sugar industry (both private and public sugar mills) in the country. The prime objective is to ensure that the functioning and interest of both the private and public sugar mills in the country are safeguarded through conducive and growth-oriented policies of the Government.
ISMA is dedicated for the betterment of sugarcane farmers in the country, and one of the main objectives of ISMA is to protect the interest of the cane farmers in the country, for whom sugarcane is the only source of livelihood. ISMA is engaged with the Government to develop long-term policies whereby the interest of its main stakeholders- farmers, millers and consumers are sustained and protected against the cyclical nature of the industry, thereby ensuring it is growth oriented.