“I am thirsty and I need to drink something.” This is a thought which comes to your mind several times during the day. But between water, lemonade, fresh juice and a variety of packaged beverages, what should you choose? Most of the time we go by what is readily available, the brand that is on top of our mind and the category of beverage you usually consume.
Today, consumers have access to a plethora of information from various social media platforms with scant regard for authenticity, relevance and use. Studies show that over 71 per cent consumers are likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals than the science behind the product. While we have read so much about beverages and their benefits, it’s time that we closely look at what is mentioned on the pack and make informed choices. Here’s a comprehensive list of factors that one must watch out for while buying and consuming a beverage:
1) Start with the basics, like packaging: It is crucial to see if the beverage you are buying is adequately sealed. If it leaks or seems puffed, or the packaging seems a bit off, take the next one. The top of a can should be sterile and made with tin plates, something that won’t get rusted easily. In addition, make sure you are buying the latest packaging of the product. This information is something that you can readily find on any search engine.
2) Move to read label info: Now comes the fine print. Read and understand the food ingredients incorporated in the drink, the expiry date, manufacturing date, calories, protein, fat and most important, the sugar content. It is a no-brainer that soft drinks with less sugar should always be preferred. If possible, choose a diet variant in which no amount of sugar is involved. Since additives harm health, selecting products with less preservatives, colours and flavours is better. Apart from that, always remember that a package of non-vegetarian items should have a colour-coded declaration — for instance, a symbol with a brown colour-filled triangle within a square brown box.
3) The devil is in the details: Always check if the name and complete address of the manufacturer and the manufacturing unit are mentioned on the label or not. In case of any incident or mishap, you will need this information as evidence to present to the authorities. It is a mandatory requirement for every packaged beverage manufacturer, so it should not be taken lightly. Furthermore, check if the beverage has a batch, code, or lot number. This is an identification mark on the packaging that helps manufacturers and relevant stakeholders to track the product. In case, a customer isn’t satisfied with the product or the packaging and has complaints, then they should immediately write to the company. A toll-free number or some contact information will be available on the packaging and that should be used to contact the company directly. The important bit here is that the company must respond.
4) Is your beverage certified? Always Check: Our food regulator, the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI), has made it mandatory for manufacturers of packaged drinking water to obtain BIS certification for getting FSSAI licence. It is already compulsory for beverage manufacturers, including those making energy drinks, to have FSSAI licence to legally supply beverages in the country. Make sure that the beverage you are picking has the FSSAI logo and licence number on it, otherwise do not invest in it.
5) Now comes the pricing part: While most soft drinks packaging has the MRP written on it, it is still important to verify it. Check and pay only the maximum retail price because unless you are in a life and death situation, there’s no point in paying the shopkeeper that extra money. You can always find a new shop.
However, despite checking and verifying all the checklists as mentioned above, if your soft drink is still not up to the mark, be it in terms of taste or condition, it is imperative that as a conscious consumer, you voice your opinion at the right forum. Consumers today have the right to contact the through an online platform called the Food Safety Connect. This platform is specially designed to give consumers a platform to register complaints against adulterated, substandard, unsafe and unfit food. A consumer can complain even if the beverage in question has poor labelling or has conducted misleading advertisements.
It is pertinent to note that more than 60 per cent of premature deaths in India are in some way related to food and beverage adulteration. Due to lack of awareness about the same, consumers, especially in rural areas, remain unaware that beverage is sometimes mixed with harmful chemicals to make it more attractive and appealing. As a result, consumers unknowingly consume such products leading to severe health issues and in extreme cases, death.
Beverages are means of hydration and nutrition in forms of energy, vitamins, minerals, fibre and so on. As a consumer, you need to make the right choice.