CSE welcomes UP decision to ban junk food in schools

Calls for other states to follow suit

April 6, 2012, New Delhi: The instruction by the Uttar Pradesh government to ban sale of junk food in ICSE, CBSE and UP Board schools — within their premises and outside -- with immediate effect is certainly a big and laudable step towards protecting our children from future health impairments, says Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). The ban is for the sale of all forms of junk food and carbonated cold drinks known to lead to a host of diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure and increased cholesterol levels.

In March, CSE had released the results of lab tests it had done on 16 major easily available brands of junk foods relished by people, particularly the young: Maggi and Top Ramen noodles, MacDonald’s foods, KFC’s fried chicken and Haldiram’s Aloo Bhujia, among others. The results showed that these have enough trans fats, salt and sugar to lead to an early onset of diseases in the young.

CSE’s tests revealed a dirty truth of misinformation, misbranding, wrong labelling and obfuscation indulged in by companies. They showed that many junk foods claim they have ‘0’ trans fats; some don’t even bother to mention how much trans fats they have -- but the lab tests found trans fats in them.

Says Chandra Bhushan, CSE's deputy director general and head of its lab: "We fully support the UP government's decision, because we believe that  junk food needs to be replaced by nutritious food, especially in schools. We are hoping that the other state governments will take similar decisions and fast."

The Uttar Pradesh government's action comes as a result of instructions for such a ban issued some time back by the Union health and family planning ministry.

Most junk food falls into the categories of either ‘snack food’ or ‘fast food’. Burgers, French fries, pizzas, colas and energy drinks are some of the other more popular Western junk food. Samosas, kachoris, bread pakodas, packaged bhujia, Maggi noodles, momos, tikkis and bhaturas top the list of Indian junk food.

"Though some food may be prepared with healthy ingredients like vegetables, they are still 'junk'. The burger, for example, contains meat and vegetables; the ‘junk’ in it comes from the refined flour that is used to make the buns, and the mayonnaise and butter that are added to the filling" ” says Savvy Soumya Misra, deputy programme manager of CSE’s Food Safety and Toxins team.

* For more details, please contact Souparno Banerjee at 9910864339 or write to him at souparno@cseindia.org