On the occasion of completing 10 years as the food safety regulator, Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on Monday set out a volley of new guidelines to ensure food safety in the country.
It was in 2006 that the Food Safety and Standard Act was passed by Parliament and the food safety regulator FSSAI was born.
“This integrated food safety law has been an important milestone in the history of food safety in India. This has brought about a paradigm shift in our focus on ensuring food value and nutrition from limited focus on curbing adulteration. It is a much wider canvas of safe and nutritious food we are working on,” said, Pawan Agarwal, FSSAI CEO.
The FSSAI chief, who had recently called for fresh guidelines for packaged and bottled water, has said that the new food safety guidelines will look to ensure health safety in food for children first.
"To realise the dream of a healthy and capable India, FSSAI is formulating regulations to promote and administer food safety at the school level to enable children to inculcate healthy eating habits that will last them a lifetime," said Agarwal.
Speaking at the occasion, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare Jagat Prakash Nadda, under whom the food regulator functions, said that there is a need for wider responsibility sharing on food standards.
He insisted that FSSAI promote food safety habits among children. "The FSSAI should be preparing a negative list of products that are rich in fat, salt and sugar in order to restrict availability of these items in schools," the minister said.
"The list will also have those food items which are known to have negative impact on health if consumed regularly and are not desirable for young people," Agarwal said.
Delhi High Court had ordered regulation of junk food consumption by school children last year and restricted the sale of foods high in fat, salt and sugar such as chips, fried foods and sugar-sweetened beverages in and around school premises.
States like Kerala, too, have slapped extra levies on sale of unhealthy snacks and high fat food.
Soon FSSAI will make it mandatory for schools to have wholesome and nutritious food available in school canteens.
"Canteens in the schools should not be treated as commercial outlets," he said, on the sidelines of the event. Schools should develop a canteen policy to provide nutritious, wholesome and healthy foods.
"Children are not the best judge of their food choice", Agarwal said, "Schools are not the right place to promote foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) and so we will restrict their sale within 50 m of any school."
The food safety regulator is also working on fresh guidelines for dairy products and food produced by the unorganised sector.