Friday August 19, 2022

PFA sets guidelines on food at school, college canteens

By Ali Raza
May 17, 2017


Punjab Food Authority (PFA) has formulated complete guidelines for healthy foods and drinks to be sold at the canteens of schools and colleges across the province, dividing food into three categories i.e. Green, Yellow and Red.

The green category food will always be on the menu and will be available every day as main choices. It will be presented in attractive and interesting way besides being promoted as tasty and good value choice.

The yellow labeled food should be served in smaller size,. It should be less prominent and placed after the green labeled food. The red labeled food should not be provided at the school and college canteens at any cost.

The guideline issued by PFA revealed that green labeled food contained drinks, grain and cereal products, dairy and related products. In drinks, green labeled items are water, seasonal fruit juice and fresh fruits. It says water is essential for life and purified water saves children from many water-borne diseases while fresh juices have right amount of vitamins and minerals that help body development and growth. Other green labeled food includes cream chat, fruit chat, chana chat, salad, pasta and sandwiches, rice, paratha, milk, flavoured milk, milk shake, yogurt, flavoured yogurt, fruit yogurt, Lassi, eggs and nuts.

Yellow labeled food contains tea and coffee, packed fruit juices, biscuits, ice creams, naan, shwarma, paratha rolls, patties, nuggets, french fries, samosy, pizza and burgers. Processed food contains high amount of food additives such as preservatives, food colours and stabilisers, which are generally high in sugar and low in nutrient so they should be taken in moderation. Mainly plain flour is used in the products and they are prepared in oil/ghee that provides dense energy as compared to the nutrients. The guidline says that tea and coffee had both positive and negative effects on human health so should be taken moderately. Excess of tea/coffee can increase the risk of osteoporosis, anemia and anxiety. About nuggets, french fries, samosa, pizza and burger, the guideline said that these were high carbohydrate foods and were deep fried on high flame. These are less in nutrient as compared to the energy value.

The red labeled food included carbonated drinks, canned items, sweets, toffees, candies and chocolates, and are not recommended on the canteen menu. It said carbonated drinks were just empty calories and consumption of carbonated soft drink could adversely affect students' overall nutrient intake. Drinking these beverages might reduce their consumption of proteins, starch, dietry fiber and vitamin B2 and students who drink carbonated beverages also tend to eat less fruits and other healthy drinks. Carbonated drinks also increase the chance of bleaching, heart burn, weak bones, obesity, poor nutrition and tooth decay, the guideline stated.

About the canned food, the guideline said, they are high in sugar and most canned foods have a plastic coating inside the can to supposedly keep the food fresh, which may harm the students as this plastic is normally bisphenol or BPA, which is a toxic chemical that causes hormonal imbalance and wide variety of health issues ranging from hypertension, aggression, obesity to cancer and heart diseases. The guideline revealed that some items were packed in aluminum cans and excess of aluminum in body could cause memory problems while most canned food contained high amount of sodium as preservative or other preservatives, which are harmful for students.

About sweets, toffees, candies and chocolates, the guideline said these contained empty calories and large amount of food additives such as colour, stabilizer, preservatives, which were hazardous if used beyond the permissible range.

Noorul Amin Mengal, PFA director general, said the authority had already started sensitising the schools/colleges as well as canteen operators about the healthy food guidelines. He said zero-tolerance policy would be adopted after reopening of schools/colleges after summer vacation. “Children are future of this country and we will not anyone play with their health,” he said, concluding that no compromise as well as no pressure would be accepted against enforcement of the new healthy food guidelines.