Health Minister Urges Celebrities Not to Endorse Soft Drinks
The Hindu
June 11, 2006

Kolkata : Stoking afresh the debate on celebrity endorsements, Union Health minister Ambumani Ramadoss has urged Bollywood superstars and sportspersons to stop promoting carbonated beverages which have an "adverse impact on the health of society".

The appeal came at a meet here on Friday when the Minister was inaugurated the golden jubilee celebrations of the Central Food Laboratory and announced a slew of measures to tighten food safety protocols in the country.

Ramadoss, who had earlier expressed strong views on smoking on screen, said it was time the film and sports fraternity woke up to the fact that by giving the stamp of approval to unhealthy products, they were propagating unsafe consumption habits among the people.

"Sportspersons and Bollywood stars are icons. They should not take advertisement assignments for soft drink companies like Coke and Pepsi since these drinks are detrimental to the health of children," he said.

Naming celebrities like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai, he said they must desist from promoting "Coke and Pepsi" if they wanted to do some good for society.

The Minister said obesity, diabetes and several other diseases were on the rise in India because of the consumption of these products and children as young as 10 to 12 years were suffering from caridac ailments after eating junk food.

A committee, he said, was probing the pesticide content in soft drinks. "But even otherwise, they are equally harmful," he added.

On whether the Centre could ban such endorsements in the electronic and print media, he said nothing of that sort was being planned. "I am just making a request to these stars."

In 2003, the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environemnt had triggered a nationwide debate with a startling report that 12 very popular soft drink brands had high pesticide content.

This had led to a near dissapearance of the beverages from the market as a panicked nation said no to the drinks.

However, the issue died down soon and soft drink sales zoomed back in the subsequent summers as cola companies gave disclaimers.

Ramadoss's views on the beverages is expected to rekindle the debate.

The country was also bracing up for an Integrated Food Safety and Standardisation Law replacing the existing Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA) to ensure greater safety of food items, the Minister said.

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