A report released by the Centre for Science and Environment and Down to Earth magazine has shown that 71% Indians cannot afford a healthy meal and over 17 lakh (1.7 million) individuals die every year due to diseases attributable to poor diet.

Globally, 42% of the world’s population cannot afford a healthy diet, said the report titled “State of India’s Environment 2022: In Figures”.

The report said that the diet of an average Indian does not contain enough fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains. Poor dietary habits can result in respiratory ailments, diabetes, cancer, strokes and coronary heart disease, it added.

An Indian aged 20 and above consumes only 35.8 grams of fruit per day as against the recommended 200 grams every day, PTI reported. Adults eat just 168.7 grams of vegetables per day but the minimum recommended consumption is 300 grams per day.

When the cost of a healthy meal exceeds 63% of a person’s income, it is considered to be unaffordable, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, PTI reported.

The report by the Centre for Science and Environment and Down to Earth magazine said that consumer food price index inflation saw a 327% increase in the past year. The consumer price index – which includes the consumer food price index – witnessed an 84% jump in the same period.

India’s consumer price index or retail inflation hit an eight-year high of 7.79% in April.

“Food seems to be the biggest mover of CPI inflation,” said Richard Mahapatra, managing editor of Down To Earth. “The current high levels of food inflation have been driven by the rising cost of production, surging international crop prices and extreme weather-related disruptions. In fact, our analysis of CRISIL data shows that food prices have increased at a higher rate in rural areas than in urban areas in March-April 2022.”

The report noted that diets of citizens are not getting healthier and “unacceptable levels of malnutrition” persists in the country.

“The high human, environmental and economic costs of continuing our current trajectory are so significant that we will pay a far higher price if we fail to act,” the report said. “The global food system falls far short of achieving global goals for both health and the environment.”

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