FSSAI has issued draft guidelines on wholesome and nutritious food availability in school that would help control junk food consumption among school children in India
CSE welcomes FSSAI guidelines but questions delay in implementation of Delhi High Court order
The guidelines say that the benefits of balanced, fresh and traditional food cannot be replaced; schools should not promote foods high in fat, salt and sugar and that children are not the best judge of their food choices
Foods high in fat, salt and sugar such as sugar-sweetened beverages, chips, ready-to-eat noodles, pizzas, burgers, fried foods and confectionery items to be restricted in schools and nearby; advertisement and promotion of such foods targeted at children is to be regulated
Schools to make a canteen policy that makes available healthy foods
New Delhi, October 16: The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in an order on October 12 issued ‘Draft guidelines for making available wholesome, nutritious, safe and hygienic food to school children in India’. The draft is to be converted into regulations after it receives comments from stakeholders.
“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,” said Sunita Narain, Director General, Centre for Science and Environment.
In March, 2015, the Delhi High Court had directed FSSAI to give these guidelines a form of regulations or directions within a period of three months to enforce their implementation across the country. FSSAI was granted an extension of three months by the court in July. “The Court had emphasised on time-bound enforcement across the country and had put immense faith in the FSSAI,” added Narain.
These guidelines, developed by an FSSAI-constituted expert committee, provide a scientific background on how consumption of junk foods high in fat, salt and sugar is linked with growing non-communicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension among children. The key principles on which the guidelines are based include ‘benefits of balanced, fresh and traditional food cannot be replaced, ‘schools are not the right places for promoting foods high in fat, salt and sugar’ and ‘children are not the best judge of their food choices’.
What do the guidelines recommend?
• Most common junk foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar such as chips, fried foods, sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages, sugar-sweetened non-carbonated beverages, ready-to-eat noodles, pizzas, burgers, potato fries and confectionery items should be restricted in schools and 50 meters nearby.
• Advertisement and promotion of such foods targeted at children is to be regulated through a framework that includes all types of media, celebrity endorsements and promotional activities. The guidelines note that the issue has been referred to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
• A canteen policy should be implemented based on color-coding. Green category foods − the healthy food options − should constitute about 80 per cent of available foods. Red category of select most common junk foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar should not be sold or served in schools. Suggested, healthy menu options should include fruit salad, fruits, paneer / vegetable cutlets, khandvi, poha, uthapam, upma, idlis and kathi rolls, low-fat milk shakes with seasonal fruits and no added sugar, fresh fruit juice and smoothies with fruits, fresh lime soda, badam milk, lassi, etc.
• FSSAI should fix limits of unhealthy ingredients such as transfats to 5 per cent at the earliest. The guidelines note that FSSAI has already issued a notification in this regard.
• Schools should promote nutrition education and awareness for children. A well-structured curriculum on balanced diet and its health impacts should be introduced.
• Labeling regulations must be strengthened by the FSSAI to enable complete and transparent information on the amount of fat, salt and sugar with reference to recommended daily allowed limits. The guidelines note that FSSAI is looking into this.
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