In a move with far-reaching positive consequences for the future citizens of the country, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the country’s top food regulator, has restricted the sale of junk and unhealthy food in canteens of schools and other educational institutions. Besides this, the food regulator has prohibited the sale and advertisement of unhealthy food within 50 metres of the school premises.
In a first of its kind, the FSSAI is bringing the new principle regulation under the Food Safety and Standard Act. It aims at providing a safe, nutritious and healthy diet for schoolchildren, Arun Singhal, CEO of FSSAI said.
“The idea is to provide safe food and a balanced diet for children in schools. Foods which are referred to as foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) cannot be sold to schoolchildren in school canteens or mess premises or hostel kitchens or within 50 metres of the school campus,” a senior FSSAI official said.
In 2015, the Delhi High Court had ordered FSSAI to regulate junk food sold in school canteens. Thereafter, an experts’ committee at the top food regulating agency relooked and framed newer guidelines so that children in school get healthy meals.
The guideline read: “Canteen, mess, kitchen operating in school should have a licence from FSSAI. Also, food business operators contracted by the department of education to function the Mid-Day Meal scheme must obtain a registration or licence from the apex food regulating agency and comply with the requirements of hygienic practices as specified under schedule 4 of the Food Safety and Standards Act.”
Municipal authorities and state administrations will regularly inspect school premises to ensure that the food for children is safe, healthy and hygienic, and not junk, said the official.
“School administrations have to adopt a comprehensive programme for promoting safe food and healthy diets among schoolchildren. They must convert school campuses into Eat Right Schools, focussing on safe and healthy food, local and seasonal food and no food waste as per the specified guidelines. This has to be monitored by a nodal officer nominated by each school,” added the official.
“School authorities have to promote the consumption of a safe and balanced diet in the school as per the guidelines issued by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN),” said another senior official. He added that schools have to implement these regulations soon after the date of the FSSAI notification.