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Indian Schools Asked to Ban Junk Food

NEW DELHI, Aug 18: India's children are getting increasingly overweight and unhealthy and the government is asking schools to ban junk food, officials said Thursday.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, a government advisory body, has drawn up healthy eating guidelines for both government and privately run schools to follow, said Sandhya Bajaj, a commission member.

"The number of overweight children in schools is growing," Bajaj said in a telephone interview. She said that the commission was getting complaints from parents who said that their children were buying unhealthy food from school cafeterias.

Obesity is emerging as a serious health problem in urban India, a paradox in a country where nearly half the children are malnourished and underweight.

The commission has issued a series of broad guidelines for all schools and parents to follow. Schools should make sure that children have access to healthy drinks like milk, water and fruit juices and that food and snacks sold at school cafeterias are hygienically prepared and nutritious.

Since a majority of Indian school children carry a packed lunch, the commission also wants schools to sit down with nutritionists and health experts and draw up guidelines for parents to follow.

"We can't tell parents what to feed their children but we can give them guidelines about healthy eating," Tambe said.

The commission will send these guidelines to the Education Ministry in each state by next week, Bajaj said.

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