Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has welcomed the move by the Directorate of Education (DoE) about sensitisation on fatty food.
The Directorate has directed heads of government/ government-aided and recognised unaided schools to sensitize students and parents about the ill-effects of foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) through morning assembly, teacher interactive periods, parent-teacher meetings and school activities.
Citing adverse health effects of fats, saturated fats, transfats, sugar and salt, the Directorate, as part of measures that could be taken, has asked school heads to consider banning the sale of HFSS foods from school canteens.
It has also mentioned health hazards of excess caffeine through carbonated beverages and energy drinks.
Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE said, "We welcome Delhi Government’s move to ask schools to consider banning junk foods and create awareness about its ill effects."
"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.
Besides, CSE has advocated against sale of junk foods, said Bhushan, and produced evidence and research to show the presence of undesirable ingredients in food commonly sold to children and their impact on their health.
The circular directs school heads to ensure that school canteens sell fresh and healthy foods which are low in fat, sugar and salt. Other suggested measures to create awareness include regular instructions during morning assembly, organizing events like drawing, paintingand spreading the word about healthy fresh food options which are low in fats, salt and sugar.
Special emphasis is to be put on lower classes, advises the Directorate. Issued in compliance to last year’s directions of the High Court of Delhi, the Directorate in addition has asked school heads to read and implement guidelines issued by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).
Bhushan said, "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’."
Commonly available HFSS foods or junk foods include carbonated soft drinks, packaged chips/snacks, chocolates, pizza, burger, instant noodles, etc.
School children are aggressively targeted through celebrity endorsements; promotional campaigns, etc. by companies of these food products.
"Globally, banning junk foods in schools and nearby is considered an important measure to limit consumption and exposure to children and decrease childhood obesity and other related non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, dental problems, etc," added Bhushan.