What’s cooking, WHO? – India’s Culinary Diplomacy at the G20 Summit and Concerns over WHO’s Report on Indian Foods | 24 October 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

Please Share with maximum friends to support the Initiative.

What's the article about?

  • It talks about India's Culinary Diplomacy at the G20 Summit and concerns over WHO's Report on Indian foods.


  • GS2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
  • GS2: IR


  • India's success at the G20 Summit held in New Delhi is attributed to meticulous planning, unwavering dedication, and commitment to excellence.
  • Among the many factors that contributed to this triumph, a noteworthy highlight was the exquisite Indian culinary presentation that graced the Summit.
  • India's rich and diverse culinary heritage has emerged as a potent soft power, resonating with taste buds worldwide.


  • India's Gastronomic Extravaganza at the G20 Summit:
    • Guests at the G20 Summit were treated to a gastronomic extravaganza that exemplified the culinary diversity of India.
    • The culinary delights included kaju matar makhana, Kerala’s signature vanavarnam jackfruit galette adorned with glazed forest mushrooms, millet and red rice, the iconic Mumbai pao, the ethereal sweet dish madhurima, Bengali rosogula, kesar pista rasmalai, and so on.
    • An opulent array of millet-based dishes was meticulously curated for world leaders and delegates attending the G20 summit, thereby spotlighting the significance of this climate-resistant and highly nutritious grain.
  • Gastro Diplomacy and India's Culinary Prowess:
    • In today’s global landscape, the concept of “gastro diplomacy” has gained prominence, highlighting the pivotal role that food plays in diplomacy.
    • India's culinary legacy, built upon the foundations of tradition, has become a global phenomenon in today’s interconnected world.
    • India’s culinary prowess continues to shine on the global stage, despite attempts to alter our palate.
  • WHO's Report on Indian Foods:
    • However, recent developments, including a WHO report proposing changes that may potentially impact India’s dietary landscape, have sparked concerns about the preservation of this cultural and economic asset.
    • The report titled “The Growth of Ultra-Processed Foods in India: An Analysis of Trends” recommends a tax hike also on non-packaged and unlabelled Indian foods, currently taxed at 5% under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime.
    • WHO’s rationale is that these foods are considered unhealthy, and therefore, imposing higher taxes could dissuade Indians from consuming them.
  • Concerns over WHO's Recommendations:
    • WHO’s recommendations could have far-reaching implications for India’s economy and cultural identity.
    • Traditional Indian foods are deeply rooted in various regions and are predominantly produced by micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
    • These enterprises play a pivotal role in India’s economy, offering employment, including to a significant percentage of women in the workforce.
    • Imposing taxes and labelling regulations could jeopardise the livelihoods of those dependent on these businesses.
  • Questions on WHO's Recommendations:
    • The report raises questions about whether the WHO’s recommendations extend beyond solely health-related concerns.
    • First, while critiquing the nutritional content of Indian foods, the WHO report has simultaneously advocated for a lower slab of tax treatment for zero-sugar carbonated drinks.
    • Second, the report promotes Front-of-Pack Nutrition Labelling (FOPNL) implementation. This labelling system, while aiming to provide nutritional information to consumers, may unfairly categorise traditional Indian foods as unhealthy, leading to consumer fear.

Way Forward:

  • It is imperative to remain vigilant in preserving and protecting our food culture while constantly innovating and adapting to healthier options. Striking a balance between health concerns and the preservation of cultural and economic assets should be the guiding principle for shaping India’s dietary landscape. While WHO’s dietary recommendations for India necessitate a critical examination, balancing health and heritage is the key to preserving India’s culinary richness and ensuring its continued global prominence and the centuries-old tradition of nourishing not just the body but also the soul.

Please Share with maximum friends to support the Initiative.

Download the Samajho App

Join 5 lakh+ students in downloading PDF Notes for 2000+ Topics relevant for UPSC Civil Services Exam. &nbsp Samajho Android App: https://bit.ly/3H9hva1 Samajho iOS App: https://apple.co/3H8ZJE2 &nbsp Samajho IAS Youtube Channel (300K+ Subscribers): https://www.youtube.com/@SamajhoIAS