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Business News/ Industry / Retail/  Mondelez dismisses claims made by social media influencer Revant Himatsingka against Bournvita
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Mondelez dismisses claims made by social media influencer Revant Himatsingka against Bournvita

A video by social media influencer Revant Himatsingka has created ‘panic’ and ‘anxiety’; this has prompted the chocolate maker to take legal recourse against him who goes by the handle ‘foodpharmer’ on Instagram

Mondelez said Bournvita is best consumed with a glass of 200 ml hot or cold milk as highlighted on the pack.Premium
Mondelez said Bournvita is best consumed with a glass of 200 ml hot or cold milk as highlighted on the pack.

NEW DELHI : Packaged food company Mondelez India on Monday dismissed claims made by social media influencer Revant Himatsingka against its health food drink Bournvita in a video that went viral earlier this month. While the video was suspended by Himatsingka after being served legal notice by the chocolate maker, the negative publicity across social media has put the company in a firefighting mode.

 “As we continued to witness an abnormal and unusual amount of traction on the post, we were constrained to take legal recourse to avoid misinformation. We also issued a statement to clarify and share the correct facts to allay the concerns of our consumers," Mondelez India said Monday. 

The video has created “panic" and “anxiety"; this has prompted the chocolate maker to take legal recourse against Himatsingka who goes by the handle “foodpharmer" on Instagram.  Himatsingka describes himself as a nutritionist and a certified health coach on the social media platform.

Himatsingka’s video that questioned several claims made by Bournvita on its packaging received over 12 million views. He also claimed that a pack of Bournvita contained very high sugar content apart from using cancer-causing colorants. Himatsingka decided to take down the video across all platforms after receiving a legal notice on 13 April.

 “We would again like to reinforce that the formulation has been scientifically crafted by a team of nutritionists and food scientists to offer the best of taste and health. All our claims are verified and transparent and all ingredients have regulatory approvals. All the necessary nutritional information is mentioned on the pack for consumers to make informed choices," the company said in its statement.

Mondelez which also sells other brands such as Dairy Milk and Oreo cookies said Bournvita is best consumed with a glass of 200 ml hot or cold milk as highlighted on the pack. Every serving of 20 gm of Bournvita has 7.5 grams of added sugar, which is approximately one and a half teaspoons. This is much less than the daily recommended intake limits of sugar for children, it said. Children aged 7 to 10 should ideally have no more than 24 grams of free sugars a day; it’s lower for children aged 4 to 6 years. Caramel colour is within permissible limits as per guidelines defined by regulations, the company said. 

The move also highlights the conflict between large packaged food companies and claims made by users of social media sites that via videos often probe the health benefits or sugar content of juices and other health products. As consumers become more conscious of what they consume—such content receives massive interest on social media.

The government is mulling guidelines that mandate that influencers reveal their qualifications before giving advice on health, according to a news report in the Business Standard. 

In fact, India’s top food regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority of India or FSSAI is in the process of framing front-of-pack labelling for packaged food products in a bid to regulate their fat, sugar and salt content.

In January, in a survey by LocalCircles, a community social media platform, 77% of consumers voted in favour of a front-of-the-pack red label on ultra-processed foods. The subject of how HFSS (high fat, sugar and salt) foods should be labelled on the pack has been a subject of great interest to many Indian consumers. Earlier in an April 2022 survey on the subject, seven out of 10 consumers were in favour of a front-of-the-pack label in Red, Green or Orange colours based on their sugar, salt and fat content, while just two in 10 consumers favoured a star rating system. One in 10 surveyed did not want any labels.

Those in the industry said that genuine reviews based on their experience and expertise are welcome—but those covering health and financial issues may best be dispensed by those qualified to do so.

 “Anyone can put out a genuine review based on their experience and expertise. However, when speaking of health or financial issues it is particularly desirable that an influencer has the necessary qualification or experience before commenting on any technical issues," said Manisha Kapoor Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Advertising Standards Council of India. It is also important that platforms that provide all parties with such a voice have the necessary tools and mechanisms that protect both consumers and brands from content that may not be factually correct, she added.

Meanwhile, on the social media platform Twitter, Dr Abby Philip, a hepatologist and scientist said that claims of scientific methods or studies and the scientific evidence for everything that is written on the Bournvita product is not backed by good evidence and thus, Cadbury's claims are misleading on muscle and bone growth, immunity enhancement and brain development—there are no controlled studies to show the same. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Suneera Tandon
Suneera Tandon is a New Delhi based reporter covering consumer goods for Mint. Suneera reports on fast moving consumer goods makers, retailers as well as other consumer-facing businesses such as restaurants and malls. She is deeply interested in what consumers across urban and rural India buy, wear and eat. Suneera holds a masters degree in English Literature from the University of Delhi.
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Published: 17 Apr 2023, 07:49 PM IST
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