Food company lobbyists, RUTF backers in Niti Aayog's working group on nutrition -Rema Nagarajan
-The Times of India
Many members of the Niti Aayog's newly constituted Working Group on Nutrition have significant conflicts of interests. Several are representatives of international agencies, which have close ties to multinational food companies including Nestle, Hindustan Unilever, Coca Cola, Monsanto, Mars and Ajinomoto, and which have been pushing packaged therapeutic food to address malnutrition. The government has repeatedly clarified that packaged energy dense food is against India's policy on malnutrition redressal. Niti Aayog's own National Nutrition Strategy (NNS) states that policy development and programme implementation should be kept clear of conflicts of interest.
An office memorandum dated September 26 stated that the Niti Aayog proposed to "reach for fresh ideas for New India by 2022 on improving the nutrition sector". It also seeks inputs on monitoring, effectively implementing and scaling up existing government schemes etc in the nutrition sector, it added. The memorandum listed 22 members in the working group including Dr Vinod Paul, formerly of AIIMS Delhi as the chairperson. The memorandum had no details of who selected these members or what the criteria of selection was.
Those from the government include, Alok Kumar, adviser on nutrition in the Aayog, Dr Rajesh Kumar, joint secretary from the women and child development ministry, Dr Soumya Swaminathan of ICMR (who has been appointed deputy director general in the World Health Organisation) Pawan Agarwal of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India and Dr T Longwah, director of the National Institute of Nutrition.
Others include Dr MK Bhan former secretary of the biotechnology department and Dr Prema Ramachandran of Nutrition Foundation of India, an NGO and a representative from the World Bank.
On conflict of interest the NNS states: "An underlying principle of action is that policy development and programme implementation must be transparent, open to public scrutiny and kept free from conflict of interest, with requisite safeguards. (This includes ensuring that representation on policy, technical advisory groups and various management committees at different levels is free from conflict of interest.)"
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