Indian Food Safety and Standards Authority proposes ‘HFSS’ ad ban in and around school premises

On 4 November, the Indian Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSAI) issued draft regulations for a ban of ‘HFSS’ advertising in school premises and within 50 meters thereof. The draft would prohibit sponsorship of children’s events, premiums and offers for ‘HFSS’ products, in and around school premises. 

Already in March 2015, the Delhi High Court had directed the food regulator to come out with regulations to promote healthy food for school children. These draft guidelines also called to regulate the advertising and availably of ‘HFSS’ foods in school premises and nearby areas. 

This proposal is part of the draft Food Safety and Standards (Safe Food and Healthy Diets for School Children) Regulations, 2019, which are being finalised to define and promote healthy diets.  

The draft standard also bans: 

  • “Logos, brand names, spokes-characters, product names, or other product marketing on/in vending machines; books, curricula, and other educational materials; school supplies; posters; textbook covers; and school property such as scoreboards, signs, athletic fields, buses, and buildings; 
  • educational incentive programs that provide food as a reward; 
  • direct sale of low-nutrition foods; 
  • free samples or coupons; 
  • school fundraising activities; 
  • banner ads or wallpaper on school computers.” 

Under the 2019 Food Safety and Standards (Safe Food and Healthy Diets for School Children) Regulations, ‘HFSS’ products are defined as processed foods, where the value of energy (kcal) from added sugar exceeds 10% of total energy, the value of energy from trans-fats exceeds 1% of total energy, or the levels of saturated fat and sodium are above the thresholds specified under Schedule-I (page 8) of the mentioned regulations.           

Under the general guidance for the selection of foods to be offered in schools, the availability of ‘HFSS’ products is discouraged and should only be eaten “sparingly”. The guidance mentions deep fried foods, sugar sweetened carbonated or non-carbonated beverages, ready to eat meals, and confectionery products as examples of ‘HFSS’ products.

draft notification issued in June 2019 defined HFSS foods criteria, prescribed red labels for HFSS foods and banned all HFSS food advertising to children, but no final regulation has been issued yet. 

Next steps: The draft regulation is open for stakeholder comments until 4 December.

Action: WFA supports the India Pledge, launched in 2010, whereby signatories commit not to advertise food and beverage products in primary schools. 

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