Food regulator FSSAI proposed complete ban on the sale of potato wafers, soft drinks and other junk foods in school canteens and within 50 meters of school campus as also their advertisement with a view to encouraging children to consume only safe and wholesome food.

FSSAI’s draft regulation titled ”Food Safety and Standards (Safe Food and healthy diets for School Children) Regulations, 2019” contain the proposed ban on sale, as well as advertisements for junk foods.

Within 30 days on the draft rules the Food and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has sought comments from stakeholders.

FSSAI said that, “Foods which are referred to as foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) cannot be sold to school children in school canteens or mess premises or hostel kitchens or within 50 meters of the school campus”.

 HFSS food products which food business operators (FBOs) manufacture would be barred from advertising such foods in school premises or within 50 meters of the school campus, it added.

Junk food is food and drinks which is low in nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fibre and high in kilojoules, saturated fat, sugar or salt. Regular consumption of junk food Leads to increased risk of obesity and chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and some cancers.

FSSAI CEO Pawan Kumar Agarwal In June this year, had announced that the regulator has proposed banning advertisements of unhealthy food in and around schools.

For operation of the mid-day meal scheme school authority itself or food business operators (FBOs) will have to “obtain a registration or license” as applicable and comply with the requirements of sanitary and hygienic practices specified under the food safety law.

The school authorities will have to adopt a comprehensive programme for promoting safe food and healthy diets among school children. The school campus should be converted into ”Eat Right School” focusing safe and healthy food, local and seasonal food and no food waste as per the specified benchmarks, FSSAI proposed.

The draft regulation said that “Encourage school authorities to promote the consumption of a safe and balanced diet in the school as per the guidelines issued by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN)”.

As per as general guidance provided in the regulation and as per the direction issued by the Food Authority or the Commissioners of Food safety, the school authorities would have to ensure that FBOs supplying prepared meals follow  proper rule. To assist in the preparation of the menu for the children, periodically, Nutritionists, dieticians must be engaged by the school administration.

The draft also stated “FBOs to support healthy eating in schools and not market, sell, or give away low- nutrition foods anywhere on the school campus, including through logos, brand names, posters, textbook covers, etc.” It additionally prescribes regular inspection of premises to ensure that safe, healthy and hygienic food is served to students.

To monitor the implementation of these regulations and to ensure the availability of safe and wholesome food to school children, FSSAI proposes the creation of a sub-committee by the State Level Advisory Committee.

The regulator said that, “A healthy food makes our kids feel better, grow better and learn better and right eating habits can be engrained in the children from a young age. At the heart of these regulations is a fundamental idea to make it clear what is healthy for children and what is not”.

These regulations will be finalised for implementation after consideration of stakeholder comments and finalisation.

“It will direct State Food Authorities or Department of School Education to frame healthy diets for school children in accordance with the general guidance given in this regulation.”  FSSAI promulgated.