FSSAI pitches for ban on sale of junk food in schools

FSSAI is also planning to make license mandatory for institutions, education departments and food companies to start selling food. Photo/Getty

India’s food safety authority has proposed that schools wouldn't sell and serve junk food containing high amount of salt, fat and sugar in their canteens.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has also proposed that institutions, education departments and food business operators must obtain a license before they start serving food in a school.

“Foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) can’t be sold to in school canteens, mess premises and hostel kitchens, as well as within 50 meters of the school campus. Snacks should provide 100-150 kilo calories per serving, while the meals must provide 300-500 kcals of energy, 18-20 g of proteins besides micronutrients from fruits, vegetables or fortified staples,” says the FSSAI draft notification published last week. It is now open to public comments till December 3.

The proposed regulations are in response to a 2015 ruling from Delhi High Court in which the court asked the food authority to frame norms to promote healthy eating in school.

“It is a welcome regulatory measure. Sharing profit from the sale of such harmful but highly addictive foods must not make school authorities complicit in undermining the health of children," K Srinath Reddy, president of Public Health Foundation of India told DH.

"Once the addictive influence of HFSS foods wears off, children will discover that nutritious foods can be tasty too," he said. 

Getting a license has been made mandatory to ensure that only safe and hygienic food is being served in educational institutions. The licensing norms are applicable to those running school canteens and supplying mid-day meals.

The food companies have been told to depict, package and serve food in reasonable portion sizes so that overeating is not encouraged directly or indirectly.They were also told to develop new products that help children eat healthy, with regard to nutrient density, energy density, and portion size.

Each school is to set up monitoring cells to check whether such norms are followed properly.

"This is a really good start - the new data suggests high levels of malnutrition of all kinds - undernutrition, micronutrients and overweight - among India’s school-age children and a range of policies must come into place to support healthier diets," commented Purnima Menon, Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute.

The food companies are not to market or promote low-nutrition foods or brands anywhere on school campuses through logos, brand names, spokes-characters, vending machines; books, educational materials; school supplies; posters; textbook covers; scoreboards, signs, athletic fields, buses, educational incentive programmes that provide food as a reward and banner advertisements or wallpaper on school computers.

Direct sale of low-nutrition foods like colas and potato chips and distribution of free samples or coupons are banned in the draft rules.

Instead, the companies can reformulate products to improve their nutritional quality, by adding more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, reducing portion sizes, calories, and sodium, refined sugars, saturated and trans fat content.

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