Junk food still commonly available in schools, colleges: Govt survey

The information was collected through a series of questions to adolescents aged 15-17 years; the questions were related to the presence of canteen and the food items available

UPDATED ON JAN 27, 2021 10:23 AM IST

Even as the country’s top food regulator is in the process of drafting regulations to stop sale of junk food in and around schools, a government survey has found 88.2% adolescents reported availability of foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) in their school and college canteens.

The information was collected through a series of questions to adolescents aged 15-17 years who attended school or college during 2017-18.

The questions were related to the presence of canteen and the food items available; also details on tobacco, alcohol, benefits of healthy diet and physical activity were collected as part of the National Non-Communicable Disease Monitoring Survey (NNMS) by the Indian Council of Medical Research- National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research (ICMR-NCDIR).

Also read | FSSAI reduces trans fat levels in food from 5% to 3%

Country’s top food regulator- Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)- had issued a draft regulation in 2019 that proposed prohibiting ready-to-eat packaged food that’s high in fat, salt, and sugar in and around schools, especially in canteens and hostel kitchens.

Apart from sale and distribution within 50 metres of the campus, it also prohibits sponsorship from brands selling food and beverages with low nutritional value such as carbonated drinks, chips, pre-cooked packaged noodles, fries etc; at sporting, school and other events for children.

In the survey, 74.5% reported availability of chips or namkeen in their school/college canteen, followed by samosa or kachori (59.6%), bakery items such as cakes, pastries, patties (46.3%) and aerated drinks (41.3%).

As low as 15.5% of the adolescents reported the availability of fruits, fruit chaat or salad at their school or college canteens, which makes them prone to developing lifestyle-related diseases and disorders such as cardiovascular diseases.

“It was observed that respondents from the rural areas reported availability of aerated drinks (43.9%) and instant noodles (29.3%) at a higher percentage in their school/college canteen, while availability of the remaining food items were more in the urban areas,” the report said.

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