In a reply to the Delhi High Court, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said it had heeded the court’s direction to formulate the standards on quality and safe food in schools.
The FSSAI has appointed AC Nielsen to formulate the standards after inviting proposals from various expert agencies that do similar work.
In January, the same court gave the FSSAI a period of six months to frame standards on the sale of junk food and aerated drinks in and around educational institutions in the country.
New guidelines by early next year
The new guidelines will be completed by Mar 22 next year, the date the court has set for another hearing on the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) under which a non-governmental organisation (NGO), the Uday Foundation, sought a direction banning sale of junk food and aerated drinks in and around schools.
The FSSAI also submitted a report to the court bench at the last hearing, where it stressed the need for guidelines in the public and private schools across the country.
“There are several reported incidents of food poisoning in the schools due to unhygienic food served there,” it said, adding that AC Nielsen QRG-MARG will review the present status of the safety and quality of food and also the sanitary and hygiene conditions of the food available in the school premises.
In an earlier ruling dating back to 2010, the court recommended banning the sale of junk foods in school, but said nothing about junk foods on-sale near schools.
In January the government informed the court that while it cannot and would not ban junk food in and around schools, it would prescribe strict health standards for ingredients in such foods.
The Ministry of Health said the FSSAI has set up eight scientific panels to prescribe standards for food items, including those containing trans fatty acid residues, poisonous metals and microbiological parameters.