Delhi Government has directed schools in the national capital to consider banning sale of food items which are high in fat, sugar and salt content from their canteens and sensitize students about their ill effects. "All the heads of government and private schools are directed to sensitize the students and parents about ill effects of food high in Fat, Sugar and Salt (HFSS) through morning assembly, teacher interactive period and parent- teacher meetings," the Directorate of Education (DoE) said in a circular sent to schools."The schools may also consider banning the sale of such foods from school canteen. Also ensure that the cafeteria sells fresh and healthy foods which are low in fat," it added. The order also details the adverse effects of each of the constituents of HFSS, as prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).Some of the suggestions given by the government for sensitizing students include, "maintaining a notice board for creating awareness; organizing drawing, painting, slogan writing activities and debates in a class wise manner with special emphasis on lower classes; and dedicating morning assembly once in a month for this purpose"."Spread the word for healthy food options like vegetable sandwiches, fruits, paneer cutlets, khandvi, poha and low fat milk shakes with seasonal fruits, lassi and jaljeera etc," the DoE circular said. The communication came after a Delhi High Court judgment that ordered the regulation of junk food consumption among school children through restrictions on the sale of foods high in fat, salt and sugar, such as chips, fried foods and sugar-sweetened beverages in and around school premises.Under directions from the Delhi High Court, a committee was set up in 2013 to frame guidelines for junk food in the country. It was a result of a case filed in 2010 by Delhi-based NGO Uday Foundation to ban junk food in schools and in their vicinity. In this context, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has been working for a long time to ensure that regulatory action is taken to limit exposure and availability of junk food in school campuses."We welcome Delhi Government’s move to ask schools to consider banning junk foods and create awareness about its ill effects,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE. “In the absence of mandatory regulations, we hope that schools will act proactively and prohibit junk foods such as carbonated soft drinks, chocolates, chips, etc. in school canteens to promote healthy food habits among school children,” he added.In a report published by the organization in 2014, Sunita Narain, Director, CSE, writes, “The Hyderabad-based National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) has defined junk food as food that contains little or no protein, vitamin or minerals but is rich in salt, fat and energy. Why regulate this food? There is also robust evidence of the linkage between consumption of this food and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases. Childhood obesity has become the most serious health concern; even in our part of the world where malnutrition is a big concern.”Amit Khurana, Programme Manager for Food Safety and Toxins at CSE advocates the use of Indian traditional food items over a packet of chips or a can of soft drink. He says, “Fresh and traditional preparations give the option of further “greening”. Samosa or tikki can have peas and chana bhatura can be cooked in an oil of choice. What possibly could not be offered by these preparations are liquid calories mixed with several chemicals.”Earlier, in January this year, CBSE, based on the report of a group constituted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, had issued a circular to all schools affiliated to it, aiming to limit consumption of junk foods among school children. The FSSAI,also in October2015, had issued ‘Draft guidelines for making available wholesome, nutritious, safe and hygienic food to school children in India’. The court had also directed the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India to implement its guidelines on making wholesome and nutritious food available to school children.With inputs from PTI
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