Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan has been one of the most popular names to endorse brands. From chocolate to processed noodles, he’s endorsed several brands in the past as the companies roped in to take advantage of his popularity.
However, his latest decision to associate his name with Horlicks has angered many health experts even prompting Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest – India (NAPi) to dispatch a letter to Bachchan reminding him about his responsibility towards society.
In its open letter to Bachchan, the health experts at NAPi said that they were ‘shocked to see’ Bachchan joining hands with Horlicks and Network 18 to launch “Mission Poshan” to support India’s Rashtriya Poshan Abhiyaan. They reminded the actor that Horlicks was a high sugar product, as ‘100 gram of a popularly advertised pack of Horlicks Delight,
contains 78 gram of carbohydrates of which 32 grams is sucrose sugar.’
They said, “This is harmful for children as it may contribute to childhood obesity and non communicable disease in later life. We hope you are aware that WHO recommends a reduced daily intake of free sugars throughout the life course to less than 10% of total energy intake.
Furthermore, in the interest of good health WHO suggests intake of free sugars to below 5% of total energy intake. In 2016, the World Health Assembly (WHA) adopted a Resolution 69.9 that recommends ending inappropriate promotion of foods for children from ages 6−36 months based on WHO and FAO dietary guidelines. Going by this recommendation promotion of Horlicks falls in category of “inappropriate” as they use false health claims in TV commercials.”
Experts in their letter also concluded that the campaign by Horlicks and Network 18 was misleading as it undermined ‘optimal nutrition.’
“Big food companies are known to adopt marketing tactics that build brands by entering through the back door. Horlicks, in this case is championing the cause of nutrition.
You may be aware that undernutrition mostly creeps into the resource poor households. We fear that this campaign will influence families and children from these families to buy Horlicks assuming it is a good nutritious product as you are behind it. Horlicks is expensive, may displace real family foods. Thus, your association with Horlicks is unlikely to achieve the objective of curbing undernutrition in India,” the open letter said.
The letter was written soon after Bachchan tweeted informing his fans about his association with Network 18 and Horlicks India to end malnutrition in India.
T 2823 –
I am taking the 1st step by joining the biggest movement to fight malnutrition @MissionPoshan, @Network18Group and @Horlicks_india to support India’s Rashtriya Poshan Abhiyaan @MissionPoshan @narendramodi @Manekagandhibjp @NITIAayog @amitabhk87@PoshanAbhiyaan. pic.twitter.com/pccGBO1CTj
— Amitabh Bachchan (@SrBachchan) May 31, 2018
Though Bachchan has not commented on the letter, many are waiting to see if he will emulate other celebrities such as the Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli, champion badminton player PV Sindhu and celebrated coach Pullella Gopichand in saying no to money. In 2017, Kohli refused to renew his multi-crore contract with Pepsi on the grounds that it was appropriate for him to endorse things that he won’t consume himself just for money.
Sindhu and Gopichand too have refused to associate their names with a cola company the past. Kohli, Sindhu and Gopichand earned plaudits for their decision to say no to greed in favour of public health. What will Bachchan choose, remains to be seen.