FSSAI wants kids to be taught healthy food habits, cites threat to progress

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NEW DELHI :

The food regulator wants school children to be taught all about food — especially what’s safe, health and nutritious to eat — worried that malnutrition and bad eating habits are threatening India’s social and economic progress. 

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) wrote to the National Council of Educational Research (NCERT) recently asking it to provide more information related to food safety, nutrition and healthy diets in school curriculum, according to a top FSSAI official.

The advice came after FSSAI reviewed textbooks for class 1-12. In India, children suffer from under nutrition, micro nutrient deficiencies and, in urban areas, they are at greater risk of childhood obesity. 

“Our team reviewed NCERT textbooks of class 1-12 of all subjects and they analyzed that there is a need to modify the existing content in the curriculum related to food safety. We want children in every class to get the appropriate information on healthy food and safety because children have the ability to transform society. Therefore, we have reached out to NCERT with our recommendation to add more information of healthy food eating habits,” said FSSAI chief executive officer Arun Singhal.

Even as India is struggling to address the problem of undernutrition in children in rural areas, there is an emerging trend of children being overweight and obese in urban areas — another health threat that puts them at risk of early onset of non-communicable diseases. 

NCERT Director, Prof Dinesh Saklani said, “We have received FSSAI’s recommendation. We will keep FSSAI’s suggestions in mind whenever our new books appear in future.”  According to a report by the World Obesity Federation, India is predicted to have over 27 million children with obesity by 2030, representing over half the children with obesity in the region, and 1 in 10 of all children globally. Childhood obesity is now a growing public health concern in Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) including India. 

“FSSAI reviewed the existing curriculum of NCERT books from different classes. It was felt that there is scope to integrate information related to food safety, nutrition and healthy diets into the curriculum. Tentative topics which can be included in every class have been attempted and it is attached. It has come to our notice that the NCERT books are under revision for all classes, thus this will be a good opportunity to integrate these topics. It is requested to nominate a nodal person with whom further discussions can be held,” Singhal said in a communication reviewed by Mint to NCERT’s joint director Prof. Sridhar Srivastava.

“The triple burden of undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and rising overweight/obesity, particularly among children is threatening social and economic growth in India. Given that childhood dietary behaviours track into adulthood and food preferences are often formed during the school years, cultivating healthy food choices in school age children via age- appropriate interventions is essential,” the communication said.

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