Pizzas, burgers, pakoras and softdrinks will be soon out of bounds for students across the country in their schools and colleges, if the health ministry has its way.
"The Union health minister has written to state health ministers to consider the withdrawal of carbonated beverages and junk food from school and college canteens," said an affidavit filed in the Delhi High Court by Food and Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)— under the health ministry.
The court is hearing a PIL filed by an NGO seeking a ban on the sale of junk food and carbonated drinks within a 1,500 feet radius of schools. It had sought the view of the health ministry on April 19. While admitting the PIL in February, the court had asked the Centre about the steps it took to create awareness among the young generation about the "harmful effects of increased consumption of junk food".
The Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna is set to take a stand on the Centre's affidavit on Monday.
"The term 'junk food' is not defined under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1954. But it is understood that any food that has poor nutritional value is considered unhealthy may be called junk food," Dhir Singh, assistant director with the FSSAI says in the affidavit.
To bolster its case for a nationwide ban, health ministry quoted medical researches to say "junk food is high in calories, fat, sodium and sugar, contains harmful additives and colour to enhance flavour and is of no use as lacks vitamins, minerals and fibre
PIL petitioners Rahul Verma and lawyer Rakesh Prabhakar 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 foods. On one hand, children are taught in classroom about good nutrition ... on the other hand we continue to make junk food available to them".
They said their nationwide 2010 survey revealed most schools allowed easy access to junk food in their canteens and shops nearby.