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“Junk Foods” to be Kept Away From Schools

The DHC has on January 11, 2012 allowed 6 (six) months to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (“FSSAI”) to frame guidelines banning/regulating sale of “junk foods” and aerated drinks in and around educational institutions.

The directive came during the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation filed by a Non-Government Organization (NGO) in 2010 contending that “junk food” damages the health and mental growth of children. The NGO sought directions of the DHC to, inter alia, ban sale of “junk foods”, “fast foods” and carbonated beverages in and near schools campuses and to direct the Government to develop a comprehensive school canteen policy.

The task of FSSAI would include defining “junk food” and “fast food”, the terms used every day, but are not legally defined under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 or the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (now repealed).

The Government has in its short reply acknowledged the ill effects of “junk foods” on health, with a broad understanding that “junk foods” contain “empty calories” from high fat and/or sugar contents without micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fiber. Based on the studies, the Government also stated that “junk foods” and aerated drinks were responsible for obesity, dental cavities, diabetes and heart diseases. The Government’s reply however did not promise any concrete steps to regulate sale of such food items in and near schools, promoting the DHC to ask the Government to frame definitive guidelines in this regard.

It would be interesting to see the definition of “junk food” and “fast food”. While many notions of western food joints serving these foods may stand vindicated, chances are that a number of Indian food items served in school canteens may also fall within their mischief. The implementation of the guidelines may also pose an altogether new set of challenges.