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Ban on junk food in and outside schools, colleges not proving effective

8,July, 2019

Srinagar: Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir are yet to impose a complete ban on the sale of junk food in and outside educational institutions, despite several warnings by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India and the University Grants Commission.

As per food safety officials, educational institutions in the state are brazenly violating orders as there is no law banning the sale of junk food in J&K.

“We must have some law which will enable us to impose a ban on the sale of junk food inside and outside educational institutions. Then only the guidelines and advisories will be followed in letter and spirit,” said Assistant Food Commissioner Srinagar, Hilal Ahmad Mir.

He said the department had recommended to the ministry and to the FSSAI to bring some law, so that “harmful” foods can be banned near schools and colleges.

“Junk food has many harmful effects on the body as well as on the mind of children and youth, so there must be some restriction on its sale,” Mir said.

In 2018, the University Grants Commission (UGC) issued a direction to universities in all states, including J&K, to ban the sale of junk food on university and affiliated college campuses.

“Banning junk food in colleges will set new standards for healthy food, making the students live better, learn better and reduce obesity levels. This will prevent lifestyle diseases which have a direct link with excessive weight,” the UGC said in a communication to the universities.

The circular was issued after a directive from the HRD ministry, asking the UGC to ban the sale of junk food on premises of higher educational institutions.

“You are requested to ensure strict adherence to the advisory. Create awareness among the younger generation who are vulnerable,” the circular read.

The university regulatory body also asked for a report to be submitted about actions taken in this regard, “at the earliest”.

Earlier, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) also recommended restricting sale or availability of foods high in fat, salt or sugar content within a 50-meter radius of schools.

Recently, the FSSAI also proposed banning advertisements of unhealthy food in and around school premises, in an attempt to promote safe and wholesome food among school children

The FSSAI has prepared a draft regulation on availability of safe, wholesome and nutritious food in schools and the same has been sent to the health ministry for approval.

Last year, the Commissioner Food Safety, J&K, issued an advisory to all colleges and schools asking them to restrict the sale of junk foods in and outside their campuses.

According to the directions, no unregistered mobile food vendor should be allowed into school premises or allowed to sell junk food inside the registered school canteens.

“Children are not the best judge of their food choice (hence) the schools or institutions must take steps to enhance the availability of wholesome and nutritious food to school children and to restrict (and) limit the availability of HFSS (High Fat, Sugar & Salt) foods or junk food among them,” reads the advisory, issued by the then commissioner of food safety, Dr Abdul Kabir Dar.

The advisory includes a slew of other measures that need to be taken for ensuring the sale of hygienic food and to provide students knowledge about food allergies, food-borne diseases, balanced diet, and personal hygiene.

It also asked school heads to inculcate good food habits in the students, and ensure a good standard of food safety and nutrition across the entire ecosystem of food around schools, including canteens, cafeteria, food joints, mess, and anganwadi centers.

Schools were asked to create School Health and Wellness Team with the involvement of parents, teachers, students, and food business operators to make schools more health-promoting institutions.

However, no educational institution follows the advisory in the absence of a specific law.

“Our children are at high risk of developing lifestyle diseases due to high intake of junk food, which is high in fat, salt and sugar,” said Dr Salim Khan, a public health expert and Head of Department, Social and Preventive Medicine, Government Medical College Srinagar.

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