New Delhi: Delhi doctors hailed the decision by nine major food business operators who have decided not to advertise products with high fat on children’s channels.
Commenting on the decision, President, Heart Care Foundation of India, Dr KK Aggarwal said this decision should have been taken by the government earlier but self-regulation is the best way to tackle such issues.
“It is the Food and Beverage Alliance of India (FBIA) who decided to voluntarily restrict food and beverage advertisements concerning children. The government is still not proposing a ban on telecast of junk food and cold/soft drinks advertisements on television as per Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani in a reply to the Parliament,” said Dr Aggarwal, who is also former National President IMA.
Dr Aggarwal said, that earlier the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had constituted an expert group to address the issue of high fat, sugar and salt foods which, made a recommendation regarding the ban on food with high fat, sugar, and salt advertising on children’s channels or during children shows. FSSAI on this recommendation remarked that the food businesses could be asked to voluntarily desist from advertising high fat, sugar and salt foods on children’s channels.
Pediatrician Dr Sanjay Kumar Mintoo said, “A healthy balanced diet is important for the all-round development of children. All the four major food groups including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and dairy should form a part of a child’s diet plan. Tackling obesity requires a concentrated effort that includes encouraging healthy eating and ensuring adequate physical activity for kids. Banning of such advertisements on kids channel will help.”
India is facing a double burden – child obesity on one end and malnutrition on the other. While those in rural India predominantly suffer from stunting and malnutrition, children in urban areas are falling prey to a sedentary lifestyle and consumption of fast food.
As per a recent survey conducted in 10 of the country’s most populous cities, 1 in 4 urban children under the age of five is stunted and suffers from chronic malnutrition. Of the cities surveyed, Delhi ranks first in terms of the highest percentage of severely stunted children (11.7%). On the contrary, child obesity is also an emerging concern with about 2.4% children in the 10 cities found to be overweight or obese.
Children with severe malnutrition experience slow behavioral and intellectual development, leading to intellectual disabilities later in life. Obese children and adolescents are more prone to bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor of IJCP, said, “Even when they are treated, undernutrition can have long-term effects in children including impairments in mental function and digestive problems, which can last for their whole life. Prevention of lifestyle diseases should start early. Schools can help in shaping the lives of students and have a very important role to play in the battle against childhood obesity. Healthy habits in childhood lay a foundation for a healthier adulthood.”