Taking forward its “Eat Right” campaign, the Centre is taking steps against the sale, distribution, and advertisement of junk food within 50 meters of a school campus, including in the school canteen and boarding schools’ kitchen.
According to an Economic Timesreport, starting December, cold drinks, chips, packaged juices, burgers, pizzas, samosas, and other junk food will be banned in school cafeterias and boarding schools.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, the agency under the ministry of health and family welfare to regulate food safety standards in India, has framed Food Safety and Standards (Safe food and healthy diets for School children) regulations 2019 to reduce down on consumption of unhealthy food by school children.
As per ET, the new guidelines state that Centre has banned the sale of pre-packaged foods which “are referred to as foods high in fat, salt and sugar” to school children in “school canteens/ mess premises/ hostel kitchens or within 50 meters of the school campus”
The regulation defines High in Fat, Sugar & Salt as – deep-fried foods e.g. French fries, fried chips, samosa, chole bhature, gulab jamun, sugar-sweetened carbonated or non-carbonated beverages, ready-to-eat foods, noodles, pizzas, burgers, confectionary items, sugar, and sugar-based products.
The newly drafted regulation also prohibits sponsorship from food business operators or brands selling food and beverages with low nutritional value such as carbonated drinks, chips, pre-cooked packaged noodles, fries, etc at any school events.
It doesn’t even allow the brands to advertise junk food or give free samples at school campuses. They are not even allowed to put any vending machines inside schools and within 50 meters of school campuses.
Many experts believe that if junk food is not available in schools, it will lead to healthier future generations. While talking to HT, Ritika Samaddar, regional head, dietetics, Max Healthcare mentioned:
“I have worked with schools and seen how eating habits of children improve for better if junk food isn’t available in the kitchen. A plate of rajma-chawal is any day better than a burger or noodles. About one-third of a child’s nutritional requirement is met in school, so what a child eats in school plays an important role in their healthy growth,”
As per Pawan Agarwal, CEO, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) that notified the draft regulations,
“The draft was in the works for sometime but this is the first time that it has been formally notified. The challenge lies in defining junk as it is a very loose term. What we are looking at is prohibiting ready-to-eat packaged food that’s high in fat, salt, and sugar in and around schools,”
To ensure school authorities compliance with the regulations, the state food authorities will conduct surveillance and periodic inspection. And, in case of any discrepancies or failures, the state education department or the affiliation body will take action against the defaulters.
As there is a constant increase in obesity among school kids, there are many of them at the risk of lifestyle-related disorders later in life. As per the recently released report, half of the country’s adolescents (10 to 19 years) – almost 63 million girls and 81 million boys – are either short, thin, overweight or obese.
As per the draft published on Thursday,
“School authorities shall ensure that no person shall offer or expose for sale of pre-packaged foods which are referred to as foods high in fat, salt and sugar as per the Food Safety and Standards (labeling and display) Regulations, 2019 to school children”
At IFORHER, we are supporting this great move as we believe it would ensure the health and happiness of our young kids, who are right now being targetted by unhealthy fast food brands.