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How to strike a balance between junk and healthy food

Soon, junk food manufacturers will be banned from advertising high fat, sugar and salty products near school premises. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has drafted a notification, to prohibited advertisement and sale of junk food in school or within 50 meters of school premises.

This is an attempt by the FSSAI to promote safe and wholesome food among schoolchildren. In June 2015, FSSAI has proposed banning advertisements near schools, and the proposal was pending with the health ministry for approval.

The notification states:

  • ‘Food Business Operators manufacturing HFSS food products shall not advertise or offer for free sale of such foods to children in school premises or within 50 meters of the School campus
  • Develop new products that help children eat healthy, especially with regard to nutrient density, energy density, and portion size
  • Reformulate products to improve their nutritional quality, including adding more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and reducing portion sizes, calories, sodium, refined sugars, and saturated and trans fats
  • Use sponsorship of sporting, school and other events for children only with brands and foods that meet the above nutrition criteria.’

My Medical Mantra spoke to nutritionists and dieticians to know their opinion on this subject.

While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Ankita Ghag, Clinical Dietician, InBody India, said, “The decision that the FSSAI has taken to ban advertisements around 50 metres of the school is a good move. Ads around schools attract children towards these food products and are tempted to eat them. This, in turn, raises the incidence of childhood obesity. This is an unhealthy eating habit. Children should be taught about the importance of following a healthy lifestyle from an early age.”

The draft of the regulation has been put forth for the suggestions and objections in the public domain. And, soon after deliberating on the suggestions, FSSAI will implement the same.

Mayuri Shastrabudhe, a dietician, said, “This is a good step towards creating a healthier future but we also need some regulation for adverts and attractive commercials on social media. This move will help curb the temptation of children as they won’t see the advertisements directly in front of them.”

The draft also states that school authority should be responsible to ensure safe food and healthy diets on school premises. And, schools shall encourage and promote the consumption of a safe and balanced diet in the school canteen/mess/ kitchen based on guidance from “Dietary guidelines for Indians – A Manual” issued by National Institute of Nutrition and other expert institutions/ authorities.

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