More and more children are falling prey to obesity and other illnesses because of increasing consumption of junk food, experts at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) have said.
They have called for a regulatory framework to monitor the sale and advertisements of junk food as well as a ban on “pizzas, colas and burgers” in schools.
At a two-day conference held by the CSE in the Capital on food safety, the experts expressed concern over more and more obese children going under the knife.
Experts said surgery, though successful on some kids, cannot be a treatment option for millions. “Emphasis really needs to be on societal changes and prevention,” they said. High in transfats, salt and sugar, junk food also makes people vulnerable to hypertension, heart diseases and diabetes.
Making a presentation at the conference, obesity surgeon Ramen Goel said, “9% of children below the age of 14 are morbidly obese, while only 2% of overall population is morbidly obese.” “As many as 85% of parents with children less than 5 years of age are serving fast food more than 7-10 times a month. As many as 86% households in metros prefer food on the go. No wonder the processed food industry is growing annually by 40% - 60%,” he said. CSE director general Sunita Narain called for a ban on junk food in schools.
Experts said food safety regulatory structures in India were either too weak or simply ignored and a paradigm shift in its health policy was needed. They said the role of the ministry of health and family welfare should be recast and greater involvement of civil society ensured to enable this shift. The conference stressed on strengthening labelling norms specifically related to nutritional information.
CSE’s experts said that in 2010, Delhi-based NGO Uday Foundation filed a PIL in the Delhi High Court to get junk food banned in schools. “In January 2012, the court ordered Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to fix guidelines within six months. Junk food in schools has not been banned yet,” said an expert. Sharad Vadehra, an expert, said, “The quantum of junk food advertising targeted at children is increasing.