With a mission to enable children to eat good food and develop healthy eating habits, food safety and standard authority of India has released a draft regulating the sale of junk food in school premises. Earlier this year, FSSAI CEO, Pawan Kumar had proposed a ban on advertisements of unhealthy food in and around schools. FSSAI’s draft regulation titled ‘Food Safety and Standards (Safe Food and healthy diets for School Children) Regulations, 2019’, focuses mainly on avoiding the sale and advertisements of unhealthy junk food in schools.
Purpose of the regulation.
There is an unquestionable need for imposing the right eating habits on children. With lifestyle diseases, high obesity rates and low metabolism it is of the utmost importance that these healthy habits be taught at a young age. School is an institution where a child spends most of his/her day, the easy availability of junk food in the premises will set a wrong eating habit so early on in their life.
The fact that the childhood obesity rate is growing rapidly compared to adult obesity rates goes to show how faulty the sale of junk food near schools is. India has the second-highest number of obese children in the world, with 14.4 million reported cases.
The easy access to unhealthy junk food poses a multitude of issues for the country’s asset, its children. The shift from traditional food to modern, ready-made fast food is one of the adaptions of urbanization. With the busy lifestyle of parents, it becomes the school’s responsibility to make sure the child eats healthy food while on campus. A major section of people and children still lack the knowledge about the right nutrition, with this regulation not only will there be a ban on the sale of junk food but also a comprehensive programme will be implemented for promoting safe food and healthy diets among school children.
One more important aim of this regulation is to promote a healthy and balanced diet in schools as per the guidelines of NIN(national institute of nutrition). This programme also focuses on no food waste as per the guidelines. Nutritionists and dietitians are to be appointed to formulate a safe and nutritious diet and assist in the making of the menu. To monitor the implementation and proper functioning of this law, the state-level committee is formed. Providing wholesome and clean food is paramount.
In addition to the ban, the draft also mentions the removal of junk food ads, logos, brand posters, textbook covers etc. Regular inspections and follow-ups are also done to ensure proper implementation. No junk food will be allowed in wending machines within 50 meters of the campus. Taking the ‘eat right’ campaign a little further, the centre has imposed a ban on pre-packaged and canned preserved food.
Foods high in fat, salt and sugar are to be banned. The Centre of Science and Environment (CSE) conducted a study which shows that 93% of children ate packaged food, 68% consumed packaged sugar-sweetened beverages more than once a week, while 53% consumed these products at least once a day. Majority of these purchases were made from school canteens or stores in the vicinity. This study helps us understand the food habits of urban school children. Even foods like white bread, canned beans and packaged soup is to be discouraged.
Why is it so important?
The age-old saying ‘ you are what you eat’ is now being backed up by a ton of evidence. Most of a child’s formative years are spent at school and providing them with the healthiest food is an integral part of a safe upbringing. With diet-related illnesses at a peak now, the least we can do is offer a balanced and nutrient-packed meal for the children. As children are not the best judge of their food, eating habits must be regulated at schools. Reducing the chances of lifestyle diseases is one of the key concerns of this regulation. Food habits have changed majorly and drastically in this ever-evolving world. Right eating practices must be taught at home too. With the ban of these foods, children will gradually shift to healthier alternatives thereby reducing the risk of lifestyle diseases by a significant percentage. An online study done recently by the council for research on international economic relations shows that the vegetable intake of students is less than 2.4 serving as against the 5 servings prescribed by WHO (one serving is 100g). With this regulation in action now, this gap between the required intake and the actual intake is about to reduce. The study also found out the gap is higher in the case of young children dependant on parents, schools for their diet. Proper awareness programs and the right knowledge about nutrition and clean eating can go a long way.
Bearing a healthy and strong future of the children of India in mind, the supreme court has taken this very important decision. Although schools do their bit in providing children with proper traditional and healthy food, it is also an equal responsibility of parents and adults to educate their children on the consequences of not eating clean and find healthier alternatives to guarantee a bright future for the children of the nation.