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Will the Govt’s ‘junk-food’ ban achieve desired results?
Rohit Chandavarkar | Wednesday, 10 May 2017 AT 09:39 PM IST
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Maharashtra government’s decision to ban so called ‘junk food’ from school canteens has generated a mixed response among parents and experts. While the state government decided to issue the order related to this ban food regulator body FSSAI has also come out with recommendations for higher taxes on fat food and a demand to ban the advertisements of this food on television channels meant for children.

In focus are two issues, firstly should any government body  ban certain food items only in a particular geographical area like schools, colleges or other educational institutions while similar food products are available all at all other places? And secondly how does one exactly decide what is safe for consumption and what is not in view of very vague parameters to judge the nutritional value of food items.

The demand for some kind of restriction on food which contains high level of sugar and sodium is not new. In India as well as in countries like Britain demands have been made by certain groups to ban such food articles.

In India however there is a clear case of double standards. On one hand the government has been collecting huge taxes from food franchise chains such as McDonalds, KFC and Dominos. The government has allowed then to open thousands of outlets in cities and small towns, the government has allowed them to advertise their products on national and regional media and then suddenly now a state government such as Maharashtra government wants to put restrictions on them selling their food products.

The big question is how will the government achieve desired results by banning so called junk food only in schools and colleges if this food is available everywhere else for children without any restriction. Chains such as McDonalds have been giving special discounts to groups of young consumers if they come to the outlet to celebrate birthday parties for years now. Consuming burgers and pizzas has become part of life for the urban children in India. Just banning it in schools may not achieve anything.

The other question is that of parameters being decided to label some food product as ‘junk food. In Indian cities the reality today is that roadside food sale is booming. Very unhygienic food is being sold on mass scale at thousands of  Chinese food outlets or at so called ‘tandoor points’ which you see proliferating in cities like Pune and Bengaluru. Is that not ‘junk food’?

The level of contamination in food sold at roadside restaurants all over India is highly hazardous to say the least, is that not a risk? So why is the government and FSSAI targeting only burgers and pizzas?

Many questions are being raised by consumers, parents and alert citizens over this decision of Maharashtra government. While all agree that sugar and sodium intake must be restricted especially among children, probably a better way of achieving those desired results could be thought of.

- ROHIT CHANDAVARKAR
 
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