The government cannot ban junk food but will soon prescribe health standards for ingredients of samosas, jalebees, pakoras, burgers and pizzas considered bad for your heart.
The Health Ministry has informed the Delhi high court that the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India will come out with standards for trans-fatty acid for food items sold off the shelf.
Most of the junk foods have high quantity of trans-fatty acids and is low in minerals, vitamins and other essential food nutrients. And, said to be a major reason for obesity among children in schools in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai.
The ministry told the court that the authority has constituted a scientific panel to prescribe standards for fatty acid residues, poisonous metals and microbiological parameters in food items including those considered junk food.
Once the new standards are prescribed, the ministry has said that its enforcement will be responsibility of the respective state governments. Such (state government) authorities are required to collect samples of food and take action on the findings of the tests reports based on safety parameters and standards prescribed by the authority, the ministry reply to the court said.
The food safety law provides the power to the state governments to impose a fine on those selling sub-standard food not adhering to the standards. Despite that action against adulterated or sub-standard has not been of desirable levels.
On the bigger question raised in the Public Interest Litigation of Rahul Verma regarding imposing a ban on junk food in schools and educational institutions, the ministry said it was an administrative decision to be taken by respective educational institutions. “The ban cannot be imposed under the food safety and standard act of 2006,” the ministry said.
The HRD ministry has already instructed Navodaya Vidalayas to provide healthy food to its residential students. The Navodaya Vidalaya committee has prescribed a daily menu for the hostels. Another school wing in the ministry, Kendriya Vidalaya Sangthan has issued circulars regarding ill-effect of junk food and highlighted the problems of obesity linked with it.
The Health Ministry also informed the court that the authority was preparing guidelines on making quality and safe food available in school canteens.