Even as the jury is still out on whether the recent death of a boy in Chennai was a result of consuming a popular packaged snack along with antacid, health experts have repeatedly warned against the consumption of junk food by children and the associated health hazards.
According to Dr Sreejith N Kumar, former state president of Indian Medical Association (IMA), the toxic effects of junk food, which are generously laden with chemicals and preservatives, have not yet been fully unravelled.
“Packaged snacks are not part of our traditional diet. As a result, we are unaware of the possible effects it can have on the body either by itself or in combination with other foodstuff,” he said.
‘Avoid Junk Food’
Healthcare experts are of the view that junk food – which are high in salt and fat content – should be completely excluded, especially from the diet of the children. Instead, they recommend sticking to traditional food items which have been ‘tried and tested’ over the years.
According to Dr Sreejith, IMA had brought out a ‘food policy’ two years ago which strongly recommends that children should stay away from junk food. The policy recommends consumption of more fruits and vegetables and boiled food items. Cola and other preservative-laden drinks should ditched for buttermilk, lime juice and tender coconut water.
The Kerala State Council for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) had recently written to the state government about the need to issue guidelines on the consumption of junk food by children.
“We have already asked the state government to ensure that junk food is not made available in the school canteens or the premises. Simultaneously, proper awareness needs to be created in schools about the harmful effects of such food items,” says Shoba Koshy, chairperson KSCPCR.
The state child right’s panel’s directive came in the wake of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights asking the Central Board of Secondary Education to issue guidelines on the consumption of junk food among children “Authoritative studies should be carried out on foodstuff branded as ‘junk’ so that its harmful effects are revealed in the public domain,” Shoba Koshy said adding that children are being lured by snack manufacturers through catchy advertisements.
‘Only Limited Action Possible’
Food Safety officials admit that taking action against manufacturers of packaged snacks is not practical as most of these brands have obtained license from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).