Following a series of food safety incidents in schools in India, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has taken an important step towards enabling the availability of safe and nutritious food for Indian school children.
A draft guideline titled “Draft Guidelines for making available wholesome, nutritious, safe and hygienic food to school children in India” has been open for comments and suggestions from interested stakeholders.
Recognizing the fact that safe, wholesome and nutritious food is lacking in availability for most part to school children in India, the FSSAI under the directions of the Honorable High Court of India, an expert Committee constituted by FSSAI drew up a draft guideline and has given its recommendations in 2 parts: Part I and Part II.
Highlights of Part-I of the draft guideline
Part-I: Guidelines for making available wholesome and nutritious food to school children
National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) guidelines issued in 2011 recommends an ideal “food pyramid” recommending nutrition breakup for Indians and also draws attention to the fact that home-made, traditional foods are better than processed foods. It also recognizes that at the stage of growth, children have special dietary needs.
Proposed guidelines proposed include:
- Restrict/ limit the availability of HFSS foods (Foods high in salt, sugar and fat) in and around schools within an area of 50 meters: The intention here is to restrict the sales and availability of common HFSS foods consumed in India such as :
The list also includes non-standardized deep fried items such as: samosas, channa-bathurae with high fat content.
- Develop canteens to provide nutritious, wholesome and healthy foods in schools: Removing the aspect of commerciality of canteens, this point is to use canteens as ambassadors to promote healthy eating habits among children. The canteens should focus upon “Green category or foods that should feature more than 80% of the times on the menu category”:
- Regulate promotion of “HFSS foods” in the audience category of children: since children are a lucrative audience for advertisers, other government agencies such as Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) can be roped in to develop further regulations regarding HFSS food advertisements.
- FSSAI should review the current food labeling regulation and consider changes such as: detailed, descriptive nutrition label, “front of pack” nutrition labeling and labeling provisions for non-packages HFSS foods:
- Establish stringent limits for regulating unhealthy ingredients. For example: trans-fats. The recommendation suggests 5% trans-fats in food items. The limit of trans-fats to not exceed 5% of the final food product has already been made into regulation by FSSAI and will come into effect from August 2016. More information here.
- Promote more physical activities such as sports among school children.
Highlights of Part-II of the guideline
Part II: Guidelines on Food Safety, Hygiene and Sanitation for food available in school canteens
Food Safety, Hygiene and Sanitation: covering aspects such as- Building design of school canteens, Hygienic requirements (Utensils/ Equipment), Hygienic requirements (Preparation), Safe handling of cooked foods, Personal cleanliness, Health status, Personal behavior, Pest management, Waste management and Training.
Part-II also includes Checklists for: Utensils and other equipments, Raw material management, Water and Salads, Handling of cooked foods, Monitoring and Controls.