CSE welcomes ministry recommendations on banning sale of junk foods in school canteens, wants these implemented across schools in India

  • A committee on junk food and childhood obesity set up by the Ministry of Women and Child Development has recommended ban on junk foods in school canteens and within 200 meters of  school

  • Committee has expressed concern on rising childhood obesity, diabetes and hypertension

  • It has developed guidelines on management of school canteens and has recommended which food items should be offered by canteens

  • It has suggested modifications in labeling of prepackaged foods and school health programmes

  • CSE welcomes committee’s recommendations and has urged the government to introduce strict control on exposure and availability of junk foods among school children, an issue CSE has been strongly pushing for

NEW DELHI, August 22, 2015: An expert committee set up by Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) has recommended ban on sale of junk foods in school canteens in its report submitted to the ministry this week. Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has been stridently calling for such an action for some time now, under its food safety campaign.

“Junk food consumption among school children is a big problem and the recommendations of the committee are in the right direction. Several countries have taken similar measures. The ministry needs to take this forward now,” said Sunita Narain, director general, CSE, responding to the development.

The committee, chaired by T. Longvah, director-in-charge, National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, was asked to look into the issues related to growing problems of obesity in children and its relationship with consumption of junk food. In its report, the committee expressed its concern on rising childhood obesity, diabetes and hypertension and reviewed how junk food is regulated across several countries and the available legislative and institutional frameworks in India. 

The committee suggested not permitting sale of junk foods within 200 meters of the school during school hours by vendors, and by shops and at restaurants to children in school uniform. It further suggested a list of desirable food items to be offered in school canteens.

“CSE welcomes the recommendations of the committee. The government must act on it now. Banning junk food in schools and near-by, formulating school canteen guidelines and appropriate labeling regulations are some of the necessary steps. CSE has been pushing for such comprehensive set of regulatory initiatives for stricter control on availability and exposure among school children,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE.

The report recommends on establishment and management of school canteens, modifications required in the labelling of pre-packaged foods and the need for promotion campaigns to be undertaken by several stakeholder ministries. It suggests inclusion of nutrition related aspects in the school health card, and renaming the School Health Programme to School Health and Nutrition Programme. 

CSE, in 2012, had tested and found high levels of salt, sugar and fat in commonly available junk foods such as pizzas, burgers, soft drinks, chips and instant noodles. In 2014, CSE published a set of regulatory initiatives required to limit junk food consumption and exposure among school children. The guidelines include limiting availability of these foods in schools and nearby, controlling exposure through regulation of advertisements and promotion, formulating school canteen guidelines and introducing nutritional fact labelling that mandates adequate information disclosure on salt, sugar and fats.