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No junk food for school children from December?

November 6, 2019

Selling and promotion of junk food in and around schools may be banned from December, notifies a draft regulation, dated October 30 released by the central food safety regulatory body – Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), that falls under the ministry of health and family welfare. Junk food including-chips, instant noodles, cola among others may be banned from school canteens and vendors in and around 50 m radius of the school premise. 

The draft regulation mentions that the reason behind such a decision is to engrain the right eating habits among children. The notification mentions a ten-point charter, according to which foods in the ‘high in fat, salt and sugar’ (HFSS) are not to be sold and advertised neither by the school nor a food business operator (FBO). Further, the charter says that schools will be encouraged to promote consumption of safe and balanced diets as per guidelines issued by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), with additional focus on local and seasonal food and emphasis on no food wastage as per specified benchmarks.

The draft regulation also directs FBOs to support healthy eating in schools, instead of marketing, selling or giving away ‘low nutrition foods anywhere on school campus, including through logos, brand names, posters, textbook covers, etc’. Additionally, the state level advisory committee will form a sub-committee to monitor the proper implementation of the listed guidelines. 

Increased consumption of fast food, especially in the upwardly mobile urban households has increasingly become a major cause of concern. In fact, as per a 2011 study by Jehangir Hospital, Pune and UCL Institute of Child Health, London, 30 percent of children in urban areas are obese or overweight. Childhood obesity gives rise to a series of other health complications including respiratory problems, poor physical health and non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and glucose intolerance (type-II diabetes), which is typically found in older men and women.

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