The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) will engage an agency to conduct a nationwide survey on the standard of food supplied in school canteens and suggest measures to improve them.
During hearing on a PIL seeking a ban on the sale of junk food within 1,500 feet radius of schools, additional solicitor general Rajeev Mehra, who appeared for the health ministry, told the court: "There are several reported incidents of food poisoning in schools due to unhygienic food served in canteens. There is an increase in the quantity and variety of junk foods sold within the school premises that may have harmful effect on children's health both in short and long term. There may be many more incidents but they go unreported due to schools located in far off places and poor communication."
Mehra submitted to the court a 'call of expression' for hiring the agency to frame the guidelines. The court had in October last year directed the Centre to immediately implement its plan to completely ban junk food and carbonated beverages from schools.
Petitioner Rahul Verma of NGO Uday Foundation told the court: "It is time we change the way kids eat in schools. Such a ban will set new standards for healthy food. On one hand, children are taught about good nutrition ... on the other hand, we continue to make junk food available to them."
The court had also given six months time to FSSAI to frame guidelines for banning junk food and aerated drinks in and around educational institutions.
The court had also asked the FSSAI to consult the All India Food Processors Association (AIFPA) and restaurant associations for framing the guidelines.