Government mulls curbs on junk food in schools

July 18th, 2011 - 7:08 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 18 (IANS) The central government Monday admitted before the Delhi High Court that junk food causes health hazards, including heart problem, and said guidelines would be framed to serve good quality food in schools and colleges.

The government said it has invited proposals from experienced agencies, organisation and institutions for framing guidelines for providing safe food in educational institutions.

Filing an affidavit before the division bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, the health ministry claimed that it has written to all states and union territories to consider issuing instructions for withdrawing carbonated beverages and junk food from school and college canteens.

The court was hearing a plea for a ban on the sale of junk food and carbonated drinks near the educational institutions.

“The centre in actively engaged in dealing with the health risks that the consumption of junk food may pose to the general health of the population and more particularly the children of the country,” said the affidavit.

“Chief ministers and the health ministers of all the states to consider issuing instructions to vice-chancellors of all universities for withdraw of junk food and carbonated drinks from the canteens of educational institutions,” it said.

According to the ministry, various studies have shown that junk food is high in fat, sodium and sugar.

“Junk food lacks micro-nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fibre but is high in energy. Junk food is responsible for obesity, dental cavities, diabetes and heart diseases,” said the ministry.

“The Foods Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is in the process of issuing guidelines for quality food in school canteens after the completion of a project and the approval of the guidelines by a scientific panel,” said the affidavit.

The court is hearing a petition filed by an NGO seeking a ban on the sale of junk food and carbonated drinks within a 1,500 feet radius of schools.

It sought the view of the health ministry April 19.

The court asked the central government about the steps taken to create awareness among the young generation about the “harmful effects of increased consumption of junk food”.

“The term ‘junk food’ is not defined under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1954. But it is understood that any food that has poor nutritional value and is considered unhealthy may be called junk food,” said the FSSAI.

Petitioners Rahul Verma and Rakesh Prabhakar of NGO Uday Foundation told the court: “It is…time we change the way kids eat in schools. Such a ban will set new standards for healthy food. On one hand, children are taught in classroom about good nutrition…, on the other, we continue to make junk food available to them.”

The court allowed the petitioner NGO to respond to the government’s reply by Sep 7.

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