Why govt cannot escape dangers of junk food

Health minister says that there is no plan to define junk food

prahlad

Prahlad Rao | July 30, 2015 | New Delhi


#junk food   #health   #maggi   #blood pressure   #diabetes  

The government has not learnt anything even after Maggi controversy. It is equipped to do but the will is lacking. The union government has shamelessly admitted today that it has not defined what constitutes junk food.

Minister of state (health and family welfare) Shripad Naik informed the Rajya Sabha today that there is no proposal under consideration of the ministry to define junk food under the Food Safety and Standards (FSS) Act, 2006.

Knowledgeable parent is aware of the dangers of junk food but it is rarely enforced leading to various ailments like diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. Research has shown that junk food causes energy depletion and the ability to concentrate for extended periods of time. It is prime reason for obesity in children. As junk food affects growth of a child regular consumption of junk food negatively impacts self-esteem and confidence.

But the government is casual about these effects that tell on nation’s social cost. Currently, only guidelines for making available wholesome, nutritious, safe and hygienic food to school children have been framed by the Central Advisory Committee of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

The minister said the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), ICMR has not conducted a study on junk food. A study had, however, been conducted by NIN to assess ill-effects of consumption of carbonated water beverages (CWBs) on the health of adolescents and young adults, which showed higher increments of body fat in young consumers.

The best the administration has done is to educate the consumers about the food safety through advertisements in media, campaigns launched by the FSSAI on social media, documentary films on YouTube, educational booklets, information on FSSAI website, stalls at fairs/melas/events and mass awareness campaigns.

These are hardly sufficient in the face of the food companies budget. These companies are spending millions of dollars to design foods with addictive sensations. The addictive sensations are shape, texture, chemical additives and forms that tricks brain into craving for junk food.

Last year, the US passed a law to keep children out of junk food consumption. Under the US Department of Agriculture law, schools will no longer be allowed to sell unhealthy junk food in their cafeterias, vending machines, student stores, or at bake sale fundraisers. Schools must replace these unhealthy items with a number of nutritious options, which also come with their own requirements.

Junk food generally refers to foods that contribute lots of calories but little nutritional value. The junk foods is low in satiation value (people don't tend to feel as full when they eat them) which can lead to overeating. Another problem is that junk food tends to replace other, more nutritious foods.

Most "junk food" falls into the categories of either "snack food" or "fast food." And then there are things like breakfast cereals. They seem innocent enough, but not.

Junk foods are low in fiber, high in palatability (it tastes good), it offers a high number of calories in a small volume, it's high in fat and high in sugar in liquid form.

We have neither laws nor any enforcement mechanism. There is another Maggie is waiting to happen.

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