Sunday, August 28, 2011


Babus in Indian Government have been forced by the judiciary to spell out the policy about selling "junk" foods near the schools in the country! In response to a PIL petition in the Delhi High Court the honorable judges sought the views of the Ministry of Health Family Welfare on this issue and of course as expected the court was provided with a "beautiful piece" of report which only Babus that run the ministry can do! No wonder GOI depends so heavily on these Babus to "govern", with really no governing!

From where the GOI got the idea of selling dal, roti and nutritional foods in the schools is not clear. Probably credit must go to the Babus for keeping themselves abreast of developments in the US where there is a powerful movement for banning junk foods in the school canteens because of the perception that the dangerous epidemic of obesity rampaging that country is due to consumption of such junk foods. Sure the US government knows fully well about what it is talking about and the predominance of processed foods in the diets of Americans is the root cause of the problem. While an average American depends on industry made foods to the extent of 80% in the daily diet, the corresponding figure is less than 10% in India. What junk foods are the Babus in India talking about? How many schools in this country has canteens like the ones American School system has? It is unfortunate that GOI has filed an affidavit containing lot of platitudes confusing the judiciary and the problem remains as they were before.

What does any one mean by calling an edible product "junk food"? If foods rich in calories, sugar or fat are called "junk foods", probably more than 75% of foods made by Indian food industry will come under this category. What is left for selling in the country? It is true that foods children eat during their early growing stages invariably decide the dietary pattern through out the life and therefore much thought has to be given when it comes to their exposure to various types of food. Parents have much more responsibility in "habit forming" vis-a-vis their kids and it is sheer callousness to shift this responsibility to the school under one pretext or the other. While residential schools have the onus to be more careful in providing a balanced menu, where does an ordinary school come into the picture in this "high decibel debate"? Millions of schools attended by a vast majority of children in the country have no role to play in this junk food controversy. Pupils generally take their own food to the school in their own "Tiffin Box" and it is natural and logical to expect that parents must be sending the most nutritious food to their children. It is amusing to read the affidavit filed by the Health Ministry with the court which is reproduced below verbatim as gleaned out from News Papers.

"The Centre has asked state governments to ban sale of junk food and carbonated soft drinks on school premises and withdraw all such items that lead to unhealthy eating from canteens. The ministry said this while responding to a PIL filed by an NGO in the Delhi High Court seeking ban on the sale of junk food and carbonated drinks within a 1,500 feet radius of schools. The MoHFW said in an affidavit that it is against sale of junk food in educational institutions and the states have been advised to keep them out of reach of students as far as possible.Though junk food is not defined under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, the ministry said that any food that has poor nutritional value is considered unhealthy. Any food item that has empty calories and is responsible for obesity, cavity, diabetes and heart diseases cannot be considered good for the consumption of children, the ministry said. Studies have indicated a correlation between consumption of food with empty calories and chronic degenerative diseases as well as hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular problems and glucose intolerance, the ministry added".

Plenty of platitudes and sentiments expressed through empty words having no intention to do any thing! Most of the above lines are taken from standard pieces of information on junk foods in the Internet with least relevance to India, probably to confuse the judiciary and to create an impression that the Babus are 'knowledgeable" on the subject. After the above episode one is left wondering whether the education authorities are really capable of protecting the health of school going kids because a more serious problem posing danger and not receiving attention due to it, does not come from junk foods from the organized food industry. The real culprits are thousands of street hawkers who congregate near schools at important timings when the schools start or have recesses and a range of items like frozen ice, colored drinks, fried snacks, cut fruits etc are sold openly under most unhygienic conditions with potential to ruin their health. With many dotting parents showering their children with liberal "pocket money" without being serious about monitoring as to how the money is spent, there is disaster waiting to happen through these street hawkers and sadly most civic authorities in the country either do not bother about controlling them or close their eyes not wanting to see the ugly scenario around the schools. Of course FSSAI has absolutely no clue regarding this sorry situation across the length and breadth of the country!


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