Delhi High Court questions Centre on junk food

Asks it to file affidavit in six weeks on whether it has framed policy to ban it in schools

By Savvy Soumya Misra
Published: Friday 25 February 2011

The Delhi High Court, on February 9, asked the Centre to file an affidavit within six weeks on whether the government has framed a policy to ban junk food and carbonated beverages in schools.

The court was acting on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), filed by Uday Foundation, a non-profit in Delhi, which alleges that junk food causes damage to health and mental growth of children. The foundation works on children's health, and has sought a ban on sale of junk food in schools and within 500 metre radius of educational institutions.

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“We hope and trust that the Union of India shall take the matter seriously as unacceptable food affects and destroys the biological system which is a glorious gift of nature,” observed the division bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjeev Khanna.

Rakesh Prabhakar, counsel for Uday Foundation, said the menace of junk food has to be dealt within schools and at present there is no policy to deal with it. “The ban in schools is especially important for young children who do not understand the impact junk food and carbonated beverages can have on their health,” he said. Prabhakar added the foundation could help in formulating a school canteen policy to promote nutritious food among school children.

The court also issued notices to Delhi government and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights asking them to file their responses. The bench advised the Centre's counsel to consider framing the policy keeping in view the global perspectives. The next hearing is scheduled for April 20.

Global bans on junk food

  • On January 21, 2011, WHO recommended a ban on junk food in schools and playgrounds in order to promote healthy diet and tackle child obesity. The non- binding recommendation will be put to a high level meeting of WHO on prevention and control of non-communicable diseases in September
  • UK banned junk food in schools in 2005 but it was revoked last year by the Conservatives-Liberal Democrat combine government led by David Cameron. The government's decision to dismantle the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in July last year received flak and was seen as buckling under corporate pressure. The FSA was pushing for a Europe-wide “traffic light system” that required food companies to label the front of their products with red, amber or green symbols to denote the amounts of fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar contained in each serving
  • US passed a bill in December 2010 banning junk food in schools
  • Mexico banned junk food in all of its public, private and elementary schools in May 2010. This was a part of their nationwide anti-obesity campaign which began early last year
  • United Arab Emirates banned junk food and soft drinks in all its schools in Abu Dhabi last year
  • In Canada, the Ontario state government banned candy, chocolate, fries, pop and energy drinks in school premises in September 2010



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