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Child development ministry has proposed a ban on sale of junk foods in school canteens across India
In its report submitted to a ministry this week, an expert committee has recommended a ban on sale of junk foods in school canteens. The committee was set up by Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD).
Delhi-based non-profit 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 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 also 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 .
In 2014, the think tank 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.