The Food Standards and Safety Authority of India has issued a set of draft nutrition rules on junk food, which could soon become national policy, amid rising obesity-linked diseases among teens.
The rules aim to limit marketing and sale of unhealthy snacks, such as burgers and pizzas, within 50 metres of a school, in line with similar curbs on tobacco products already in place.
The draft says foods such as burgers, pizzas, fries, chocolates, ice-creams, sugary drinks, which are hurting children’s health, “must be eaten sparingly”. For the first time, restrictions are also being considered on traditional deep-fried foods such as samosas.
“Type 2 diabetes (not requiring insulin treatment) is increasingly being reported in children. The leading risk factor for kids is being overweight, often connected with unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity,” the guidelines state.
According to the draft, public or private schools must have a canteen policy to provide healthy food which is colour-coded according to its nutritional value. About 80% of the food served in schools must fall in the green category, or food low in salt, fat and sugar and largely based on whole-grains, dairy or fruits.
The draft rules are a significant progress towards policy action to reverse an alarming increase in obesity-related problems among school-goers.
In 2011, a study in the journal Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism estimated that more than 15 million children in India were overweight and four million abdominally obese in urban India.
The draft rules also require education policymakers to introduce chapters on healthy diets in school curricula and recommend plenty of outdoor physical activity.
The guidelines follow a pyramid model with burgers and pizza at the top as foods to eat sparingly; oils, fat, meat, fish and eggs in the “eat moderately” category; and fruit, vegetables, milk, cereal in the eat “adequately or liberally” group.