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Child commission wants junk food ban in schools

Alerting the schools about serious health hazard, the NCPCR has recommended series of restrictions on unhealthy competitive food including a special tax on junk food, reports Chetan Chauhan.

india Updated: Aug 15, 2007 20:33 IST
Chetan Chauhan

For healthy children, stop sale of junk food, encourage students to take nutritious diet and promote physical activity. This is what precisely the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has asked all state governments to tell the schools.

On eve of India’s 60th Independence Day, the commission has issued guidelines on food and nutrition in schools considering rising children obesity figures, mainly in urban India. Commission says a quarter of children are eight overweight or obese. In Delhi, 24.2 per cent of school children were found obese in a survey conducted by Diabetes Foundation of India.

A National Sample Survey Organisation survey released in May 2007 had pointed at huge increase in intake of fat food products among urban Indians, including school children. The per capita fat content has increased from 34 grams in 1993-94 to 50 grams per cent in 2004-05, the report states.

Alerting the schools about serious health hazard, the NCPCR has recommended series of restrictions on unhealthy competitive food including a special tax on junk food and not signing canteen contracts with firms selling soft drinks, fast food or any other unhealthy food. A ban should be imposed on selling unhealthy food products in official school canteens, the commission has said.

The states have been asked to prepare nutrition standards for schools. The standards should reflect cultural diversity of the student body, their food preferences and special dietary needs. The district administration should set nutritional and portion size limits on all competitive food and beverages, the guidelines state.

It should be mandatory for schools to post information on the nutrition content of the food served and the district administration policies pertaining to nutrition, the guidelines state. Every school, at least the new ones, should also have full service kitchens to prepare food from fresh ingredients. Sandhya Bajaj, a commission member, said, schools should regularly monitor growth of students and take remedial steps where a deficiency is found.

The guidelines also say that healthy beverages include water, milk and juices (without added sweetener). Children and adolescents should be encouraged to eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, cereals, lean meat, fish, poultry products and yoghurt.