Need for ban on junk food in schools

Need for ban on junk food in schools
Highlights

Need for ban on junk food in schools. The National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) is one of the panel experts guiding the Delhi High Court in implementing the ban.

15 per cent children in the city are overweight, says a survey.

On April 23, the Delhi High Court had asked for a detailed response regarding enforceable guidelines and suggestions for banning sale of junk food in school premises and in the radius of 500 metres of such institutions. The report was ordered to be submitted in three weeks.

The National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) is one of the panel experts guiding the Delhi High Court in implementing the ban. The institute conducted a study of how junk food affected the lifestyle of the children in the city. The report threw up some glaring deficiencies among youngsters.

Laxmaiah, senior deputy director, NIN, said, “Childhood Obesity Survey was taken up by NIN recently in Hyderabad where health of urban children was the focus. A study was conducted on 800 children from 10 schools. The survey reported that 15 per cent of urban children were overweight. Of the 15 per cent, half of them were found to be obese only because of consuming junk food. The other half were obese only because of genetic disorders like parents being obese and due to physical inactivity.”

In the Phase-II of the study, a model was developed to correct the disorder.

“One of the reasons for the disorder was the schools did not promote physical activity among children. Though schools did allot two or three classes a week for physical exercise, it was suggested that at least a day should be allotted for sports and games. It was also suggested that teachers should spare at least two minutes to speak about healthy eating habits in the classroom,” explained Laxmaiah.

“The model was implemented for 10 months and at the end of it, we found that apart from improvement of knowledge, the weight and height of students increased. It was also found that overweight children became normal and there was a marked improvement in the health of obese children,” he added.

Iterating the importance of eliminating junk food in the diet of children, Laxmaiah said, “All foods which contain lot of fat like pizza and burger and food which has lot of oil content can be considered as junk, which has a serious impact on the health of children. Schools in canteen need to advised on cooking healthy food.”

Anuradha Rao, general secretary, AP Balala Hakkula Sangham (APBHS), said, “There are so many junk foods like chips and carbonated drinks being sold at anganwadis and near schools. It contains preservatives and its consumption lowers the nutritional levels among children. Consumption of burgers and pizzas at a young age increases the risk of obesity. We have come across children who are unable to walk in the city at a very young age. Study after study points to high-calorie intake because of unrestricted access to energy-dense fast food in school canteens and neighbourhoods. While exercise is vital, it is not a substitute for a balanced diet.”

“Class-II preservatives are giving rise to intestinal problems like e-coli. The preservatives are used in readymade ice creams and juices sold in shops outside schools. The artificially coloured edibles also harm the children as it affects the brain,” she added.

Junk food ban in India

In the country, while Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Kerala, have banned the sale of aerated drinks in schools, a proposal to ban the sale of junk food is still in the pipeline.

“In July 2012, former Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy issued a GO making physical education mandatory in all schools across the state. “Apart from this there was no major initiative taken up by the government to improve the health conditions. A verdict by the Delhi High Court will pave the way for a healthier lifestyle among children,” pointed out Laxmaiah.

Ban in different countries

Many countries have either banned the serving of low-quality fast food in schools or have imposed additional taxes on soft drinks, ice-cream, sweets, salty snacks and processed snacks.

The UK has banned the serving of low-quality fast food across all schools in the country from 2006. It also imposed a ban on ads of foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) and cola drinks in and around programmes for kids up to the age of 16 years.

Australia, Finland, France, Ireland, Mexico, Poland, Canada, Philippines, the US and a host of other countries have imposed additional taxes on soft drinks, ice-cream, sweets, salty snacks and processed snacks while many more are introducing strict legislation to prohibit the broadcast of unhealthy food directed at children.

The WHO in its 2013 report has acknowledged that the marketing of junk food and beverage products that are high in fat, sugar and salt is one of the prime causes of child obesity and dietary-related non-communicable diseases.

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