Maharashtra government bans junk food, aerated drinks in school canteens with immediate effect
In a bid to tackle the rising rate of obesity among children, the Maharashtra Government has banned the sale of junk food in school canteens with immediate effect and recommended healthier options as alternatives.
In a circular issued on Monday, the government instructed school administrations not to sell food that is ‘high in fat, salt and sugar’ (HFSS) in canteens from today. The ban also applies to aerated drinks, which have a high sugar content.
The state decided to restrict the sale and availability of HFSS items in canteens after a central government committee found that the consumption of junk food led to obesity and other health issues among children.
The government resolution (GR) states that HFSS food items have very little vitamins, minerals etc and can adversely affect the child’s health and academic performance. It further directed school principals to ensure the instructions are implemented.
“HFSS food has less nutrients and more salt, sugar and flour which results in obesity and other illnesses which affect the academic efficiency of students. Hence, we are prohibiting the storage and sale of junk food within the school canteen and the school principal and management needs to implement this,” the circular read.
The list of banned items include Chinese food, potato chips, pizzas, burgers, cakes, biscuits, chocolates, pastries, candies, jams, jellies, sweets, ice lollies and carbonated soft drinks.
It recommended items like chapatis/parathas, rice, vegetables, pulses, wheat upma, khichdi, idli sambar, coconut water, lemonade and jaljeera as alternatives.
In case of schools that don’t have a canteen, the administration has been asked to ensure that vendors that are permitted to sell food in and around the campus during lunch hours adhere to the rules.
The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) had earlier formed a committee under the director of the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad to evaluate the food being served in canteens.
The committee noted that the consumption of HFSS food items increased the risk of problems related to obesity, heart, diabetes etc among children and recommended switching to healthier alternatives back in 2014.
Later, in January 2016, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) became the first one to implement the committee’s recommendations.