MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government has banned the sale of junk food in school canteens. Based on recommendations the Centre issued over two years ago, the state has told schools not to sell food `High in Fat, Salt and Sugar’ (HFSS) and has suggested healthy alternatives. The decision has been taken looking at childhood obesity and related diseases.
“HFSS food has very little vitamins and minerals… (Their consumption raises the chance of obesity) and other related diseases among children. The ef fects can be seen on a child’s academic performance,” said the government resolution issued by the school education department. School principals have been asked to ensure that the instructions are followed.
The suggested alternatives include chapatis, rice, vegetables and pulses, rajma, wheat upma, khichdi, payasam, idli and vada sambar, coconut water, lemonade and jaljeera. Though not many state-affiliated schools have canteens, the education department’s government resolution (GR) banning junk food in schools can be interpreted to include vendors who sell prepackaged or pre-cooked food on campus during breaks.
Concerned by food children eat, the Union ministry of women and child development (MWCD) formed a committee under the director of the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad. The panel noted that HFSS (High in Fat, Salt and Sugar) food increased chances of obesity, diabetes, and dental and heart problems.
Schools have also been asked to create awareness among children about healthy eating. “(They) must take help of professionals in the locality and (seek) information on the internet,” said the GR.
Experts have welcomed the state’s move. “The human body is not designed to metabolise large amounts of artificial sugar and this is easily converted to fat. It is also linked to insulin resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes,” said Carlyne Remedios, a nutritionist with Saifee Hospital. She said that while it isn’t easy to strike the right balance with healthy food, it is not impossible and.”The best way is to make gradual changes so that they are accepted well.”
Experts also wished the move had come much earlier.”There was always the science to show that HFSS food had negative health effects on children, and so we should have realized the need for a policy decision two or three years ago,” said Dr Jagmeet Madan, VP , Indian Dietetic Association.”Nevertheless, it is a welcome step and the least we can do is to minimize the availability of such food to children. ”
The Centre’s recommendations were issued in December 2014. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) was the first to implement the MWCD’s report. It issued directives to affiliated schools in January 2016. CBSE also suggested that a school canteen management committee (SCMC) should take charge of menu preparation. CBSE wanted 7-10 panel members, including teachers, parents, students and school canteen operators, to implement the guidelines.