New Delhi: Chips, fried foods, carbonated beverages and pizzas may no longer be available in school canteens and within its vicinity with the Delhi High Court directing the food safety authority to enforce guidelines on restricting sale of junk food in and around schools.
Under the guidelines, food high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) cannot be sold within 50 metres of school premises.
A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice R S Endlaw refused to direct Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to use the word "junk" instead of HFSS to describe the unhealthy food articles like chips, fried foods, carbonated beverages, pizzas, etc, saying the word 'junk' has diverse meanings in different areas.
It directed FSSAI to turn the guidelines into directions or regulations and to take appropriate steps for ensuring their enforcement within three months.
In order to ensure that the guidelines are adhered to and any violation is actionable under Delhi Schools Education Act, the court directed the Administrator, Delhi to consider, by April 30, whether to issue instructions under the Delhi School Education Rules to follow the FSSAI guidelines.
To ensure adherence by schools outside Delhi, most of which are affiliated to CBSE, the bench directed the Board to consider including compliance of the guidelines as a condition for being affiliated with it.
"We direct CBSE to, on or before April 30, 2015, consider the said aspect and take a decision thereon and if possible, include the condition aforesaid (adherence to guidelines) in the conditions for affiliation / continued affiliation prescribed by it," the bench said in its 22-page judgement.
The FSSAI guidelines require formulation of a canteen policy to provide nutritious, wholesome and healthy food in schools, setting up of a school health team as well as promotion by the schools of nutrition education and awareness though various tools such as posters.
The court's February 25 order came on a PIL flagging the issue of easy availability of junk food and carbonated drinks to children and the harmful effects thereof and seeking a ban on such food items in schools.
The guidelines also lists "sandwiches, fruit salad, fruits, paneer or vegetable cutlets, khandvi, poha, uthapam, upma, idlis and kathi rolls etc. As healthier menu options and low fat milk shakes with seasonal fruits, no added sugar, fresh fruit juice and smoothies with fruits, fresh lime soda, badam milk, lassi, jaljeera etc. As healthy beverage options".
The FSSAI guidelines said there should be colour coding of foods, regulation of promotion of HFSS food among school children by Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) and other relevant bodies, review of labeling regulation to enable disclosure of all relevant information as well as controlling of intake of trans fatty acids (TFAs).
The court refused to tinker with the guidelines, saying "an expert body constituted for this very purpose and in performance of its statutory duties has framed the guidelines, without there being any specific challenge thereto".
"We therefore do not feel the need, either to ourselves make changes to the guidelines, or to suggest the same to FSSAI and which axiomatically will have to consider the said suggestions by following the procedure as followed for framing the guidelines," it also said.