The Centre for Science and Environment Director-General, Sunita Narain, has demanded that all junk food be banned from unaided and private schools across the country. Food high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) should not be available in educational institutions and within 500 yards of them.
Ms. Narain is the chairperson of the working group set up by the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India as per the Delhi High Court’s directions in 2013. It has given a set of guidelines for regulating consumption of HFSS food among children.
“Schools are not the right place for promoting HFSS foods. Benefits of balanced, fresh and traditional food cannot be replaced. Frequent consumption of food high in salt, sugar and fats and low in other essential macros and micronutrients is detrimental and should be avoided. Children are not the best judge of their food choice. They have limited understanding about the impact of food on their health. Broadly, they are not aware about the concept of balanced diet and what kind of food is to be consumed and avoided to achieve it,” Ms. Narain added.
She also said cricketers, Bollywood actors and other celebrities should avoid endorsing junk food.
“Advertisement of HFSS food targeted on children and adolescents should not be allowed to be broadcast on television and radio from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends and holidays.”
Dietary recommendations in schools are whole wheat roti/poori with seasonal vegetable, multi-whole grain roti/poori with seasonal vegetable, rice and dal, vegetable pulao, rice and black chana, sweet dalia, rice and white chana, idli, vada, sambar, kheer and milk products like curd, buttermilk and lassi.
While Ms. Narain had six paediatricians and nutritionists working as members of the working group, representatives of industry associations submitted a document titled “Guidelines on Wholesome Food and Nutrition for School Canteen” to the expert group on January 16, 2013.
In 2010, a public interest litigation was filed by the Uday Foundation, a Delhi-based non-profit organisation seeking a ban on junk food sold in schools, regulations on junk food promotion and advertisement and development of school canteen policy.