Friday, July 01, 2005
On my table lies an "information kit" from Kellogg's India - courtesy of some hyper-efficient PR agency - which states:
"Kellogg India and the Indian Medical Association launch month-long 'anaemia-free India" campaign.
Wonderful. This is all part of a larger plan to have an anaemia free India by the year 2010. A noble objective, given that "90% of adolescent girls, women and children in India suffer from the deficiency".
And what is the solution to the problem? Kelloggs believes that:
a) "One of the most effective ways of communicating the message on the importance of diet in addressing anaemia is through collaborative efforts between health professional associations and the food industry committed to the cause... "
b) "Iron fortification of basic foods is the most essential, economic and convenient approach to address this health condition, as it does not require food habit modifications."
So far, so good. But further into the press release Ms Usha Kiran Sisodia, chief dietician of Nanavati hospital points out: "A typical Indian diet, being largely vegetarian, might not be able to meet the daily requirements of iron due to limited iron-rich vegetarian foods and lower bio-availability of these resources."
She goes on to declare...
"A single 30 g serving of Kelloggs cornflakes, fortified to deliver 25% RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of iron is one of the best vegetarian sources of iron (underlined by them, not me). Moreover it provides 50% RDA of Vitamin C another critical factor that enhances iron absorption."
Never mind that a family of 4 guzzling 30 g of Kellogg's cornflakes a day will end up finishing a 500 gm pack costing Rs 120 in 4 days flat.
A formula which adds to our health and their wealth. As the average household would spend about 900 bucks a month on cornflakes...
I'm no dietician, but surely adding green leafy vegetables to your diet is a far cheaper solution? And 'fortification' of basic food is more easily done in the form of adding shredded paalak or methi to ones atta and dal (we do it regularly).
One of my maids used to have fainting spells - due to anaemia. A pack of dates (khajoor) costing around 10 bucks is what my doctor recommended to her. It is, I am told, the cheapest and most effective source of iron.
Now of course, Kelloggs being a commercial entity will try to have a commercial angle while supporting this 'noble cause' - and not promote spinach or dates. So go ahead, sell us your cornflakes... But try and understand the Indian psyche, so you meet with greater success!
The problem, dear Kelloggs people, is not just that Indians prefer 'hot breakfasts' and all that jazz you told us at the glitzy press conference at the Oberoi rooftop I remember attending circa 1994.
The problem is your cornflakes are too damn expensive. Cellphone usage has jumped exponentially, due to lower rates. So would the popularity of cornflakes -if you cared to bring down the price.
Right now we pick up one 500 gm dabba and eat it with kanjoosi for a month. At 49 bucks a box I bet we'd be OK polishing off a box a week.
And then, all this Iron-Shakti business I'd happily swallow. And so would Indians across SECs.
Till then, can you please pass the paalak paneer?!