FSSAI dismisses junk food from school menu

Food Safety and Standards Authority of IndiaThe Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has decided to take off junk food from the school menu as it has issued a new draft guidelines on availability of nutritious and healthy food.

The FSSAI has taken the initiatives to control the consumption of junk food among teen-aged students.

The draft guidelines propose to restrict sale or availability of food which are high in fat, salt or sugar content within 50 metres of schools’ premises. This includes an array of food and beverages consumed by school children including chips, ready-to-eat noodles, pizzas, burgers, sugar-sweetened carbonated and non-carbonated drinks, potato fries (commonly called French fries) and confectionery items.

The draft guidelines have also suggested creation of a canteen policy and school health education programmes to make students and parents aware of the ill-effects of unhealthy food habits.

“The identified foods are based on an evaluation done out of available similar foods in India. They are considered unhealthy due to imbalance in nutrients i.e high in fat, sugar, salt and/or low proteins, fibres and nuts,” said the draft.

The guidelines also say that the benefits of balanced, fresh and traditional food cannot be replaced; schools should not promote food items high in fat, salt and sugar and that children are not the best judge of their food choices.

The FSSAI’s move was triggered by the Delhi High Court’s directive in July-end, giving three months to the authorities to monitor availability of junk food in schools. Various health groups have been advocating against availability and sale of unhealthy food in schools.

“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.