In last few years several researches were conducted on school children of Delhi, Amritsar and Southern India which shows the increasing rate of obesity among students. In urban post-pubertal children, it has increased from 16 per cent (2002) to about 24 per cent (2006) and especially in case of children of private schools compared to low and middle-income groups.
Delhi High Court issued directives in July to trigger the initiative of the FSSAI. During that time FSSAI was given three months time to monitor availability of junk food in schools. Several heath groups were formed so as to keep a check against availability and sale of unhealthy food in schools.
Soon school students might not be able to treat their taste buds with food that are high in fat, sugar and salt, including deep-fried snacks like samosa and chana bhatura. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is all set to restrict consumption and availability of junk food in schools.
The guidelines have been prepared by an expert committee constituted by FSSAI. The guidelines say the benefits of balanced, fresh and traditional food can never be replaced hence schools should not promote food items high in fat, salt and sugar and that children are not the best judge of their food choices.
The drafted guidelines issued by the authority on availability of wholesome and nutritious food in school canteens would soon be converted into a regulation after going through prescribed process of inviting comments and suggestions from various stakeholders. The draft guidelines may help control consumption of junk food among school children in India.
Sunita Narain, Director General, Centre for Science and Environment said, “We welcome the order issued by the food authority. It is important that junk food is regulated in schools. However, we are not sure why it is taking so much time to be implemented.”
A senior official in FSSAI said, “Unhealthy diet leads to metabolic changes and conditions such as overweight, high blood pressure, raised blood glucose and cholesterol, which are among the leading causes of no communicable disease deaths in India.”
Last month, Nestle was issued orders to pull out its flagship brand Maggi from Indian market after a series of tests in which high levels of lead and monosodium glutamate (MSG) was found in the product. A new policy for school canteens along with ban on sale of junk food in and around schools has also been issued.
As per the policy, school canteens should not be treated as commercial outlets. They have a social responsibility towards inculcating healthy eating behaviours. They should motivate children to consume healthy and hygienic food. A suitable canteen policy that ensures nutritious, wholesome and healthy food for children should be developed in consultation with the health ministry and education ministry.