Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Can there be a more ridiculous situation than what had happened in the Supreme Court some time back when GOI was quizzed regarding the prevalence of selling junk foods near the school premises? In stead of explaining to the court that the term junk food is an anachronism because all foods provide some calories or nutrients if they are edible. In stead the FSSAI, representing GOI informed the court that it is going to lay standards of safety for the so called "junk foods". Also FSSAI tried to prevaricate on the issue by diverting the attention of the court by fulminating against trans fatty acids which are supposed to be in all junk foods! It is a pity that in stead of agreeing to ban all unhealthy foods in or near educational institutions, this responsibility was shifted to the states most of which have lowest priority for matters connected with consumer safety. HRD Ministry which controls policies related to education must have pitched in by agreeing to bring out guidelines for foods that could be sold to children near the school. Here is a report on this case which was carried by major news agencies recently. 

"Most of the junk foods have high quantity of trans-fatty acids and is low in minerals, vitamins and other essential food nutrients. And, said to be a major reason for obesity among children in schools in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai. The ministry told the court that the authority has constituted a scientific panel to prescribe standards for fatty acid residues, poisonous metals and microbiological parameters in food items including those considered junk food. Once the new standards are prescribed, the ministry has said that its enforcement will be responsibility of the respective state governments. Such (state government) authorities are required to collect samples of food and take action on the findings of the tests reports based on safety parameters and standards prescribed by the authority, the ministry reply to the court said. The food safety law provides the power to the state governments to impose a fine on those selling sub-standard food not adhering to the standards. Despite that action against adulterated or sub-standard has not been of desirable levels. On the bigger question raised in the Public Interest Litigation of Rahul Verma regarding imposing a ban on junk food in schools and educational institutions, the ministry said it was an administrative decision to be taken by respective educational institutions. The ban cannot be imposed under the food safety and standard act of 2006, the ministry said".

While reporting on the Supreme Court proceedings, no one seems to have been bothered by thousands of push carts operating near every school in this country selling cut fruits, ice candy, local sweets etc under most insanitary condition. Why FSSAI chose to highlight dangers of trans fats could have been to exhibit its technical prowess vis-a-vis food safety to the court! Probably it is time stern action is taken against school management if such unhygienic foods are allowed to be sold to students in their schools. Cut fruits are by far the most dangerous source of infectious food borne pathogens and the tender body system of the children is more vulnerable to infections by consuming these fruits and other similar risky food products. Parents also have an obligation towards their wards and the practice of giving hefty pocket money to school going kids spawns many undesirable activities in and near the school.


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