Packaged food companies will no longer be able to advertise or sell products that are high in saturated fat, added sugar, sodium or trans fat inside school campuses or within 50 metres from the school gate in any direction. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), on Monday, notified new regulations to ensure the availability of safe and balanced diets for school children.
No more promotions
Companies will also not be able to promote unhealthy food products by offering free samples, toys, trading cards, apparel, club memberships, coupon or by associating with educational incentive programmes and sponsoring sporting or school events. Such food products’ logo, brand names or branding characters cannot be displayed on vending machines or educational materials and in school property, including buses and buildings, the regulations stated.
School authorities must also comply with these regulations, and will also need to prominently display a board at the entrance gate of schools with the warning: ‘Do not sell, including free sale, or market or advertise the food products high in saturated fat or trans-fat or added sugar or sodium within school premises or campus’ in English or one Indian language as applicable. School authorities will need to ensure that HFSS food is not advertised even via school computers
“The Department of School Education shall ensure that all FBOs contracted by it for operation of the mid-day meal scheme are registered or licensed under the provisions of the Act, rules or regulations made thereunder and ensure that the food is safe and balanced,” the regulations stated. School authorities that are directly involved in selling and catering food products and meals will need to register as FBOs with the State or central licensing authority. They will also need to ensure that FBOs contracted to supply food in school canteens or kitchens are “duly registered or licensed” and comply with safety and hygiene practices.
School authorities will need to “encourage and promote consumption of a safe and balanced diet” in premises based on guidance from ‘Dietary guidelines for Indians – A Manual’, issued by the National Institute of Nutrition and other expert institutions or authorities. The regulations also state that State Level Advisory committees will set up a sub-committee consisting of representatives of Department of School Education and public health professionals to monitor the implementation of these regulations. This sub-committee will also recommend an indicative list of food groups and preparations that should be served and sold in school canteens and kitchens within a State, based on broad guidelines given in the regulations and local variations.
The regulations consist of a general guidance on selection of food products. For instance: FSSAI has recommended that items such as ice-creams, milk-based and dairy based sweet/desserts, white bread, biscuits, packaged soups, juices, cereal or malt-based beverages, canned meat, vegetables and packed food such as fruit, vegetable and pulses-based snacks should be consumed occasionally in small portions in reduced frequency.
School authorities will need to conduct inspections, and State food authorities will undertake surveillance activities of food business operators that sell their products in schools to ensure the compliance of these regulations.