The Dialogue and Development Commission (DDC), the Delhi government’s advisory body, has proposed that the government impose a tax on food and beverages with high sugar, salt and saturated fat (HSSS) content “t” dissuade their consumption and create awareness”.”
DDC vice-chairman Ashish Khetan said this is the first time that such a proposal has been put before the Delhi government. The report, aimed at discouraging the consumption of junk food especially by children, was part of the 70 reports submitted to the government by the DDC over the last one-and-a-half years. A compilation of DDC’s recommendations was recently submitted to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Except Kerala, which proposed to impose a 14.5 per cent fat tax on junk food in the maiden budget of the CPM-led Pinarayi Vijayan government, no Indian state has levied such a tax, said sources in the DDC.
The DDC’s report cited WHO studies, according to which 22 per cent of Indian children were “”bese and unhealthy”” In a city-wise break-up of diabetic population, Delhi, with 11.3 per cent, was behind Hyderabad (16.6 per cent), Chennai (13.5 per cent) and Bangalore (12.4 per cent).
The report, however, stated, “”ur kids are most vulnerable. They are being raised on a staple diet of cola and chips. Schools sell them. Celebrities endorse them. Advertisements target them. As many as 70 per cent of school going children in Delhi consume at least three packets of chips per week.””
The DDC report also cited a sample survey conducted by AIIMS which reflected that eight out of 10 children are eating unhealthy food. “Those schools having proximity to fast food chains have more overweight children than those who don’t consume junk food,” the report, dated June 6, claimed.
It added, “There is a difference in the extent of obesity and high BMI prevalent in children belonging to higher (11 per cent) and lower (7 per cent) socio-economic status studying in Delhi schools, and how it is directly linked with their pocket money spent on buying junk food. A study on juvenile diabetes and metabolic syndrome in Delhi children in the age group 5-18 shows an upward trend by 3-5 per cent.”
The commission proposed to the government to formulate a ‘Delhi School Cafeteria Policy’ to help substitute junk food with “wholesome and nutritive food”. It cited the examples of Canada, UK, UAE, USA, Mexico and Finland that have “come up with multiple action plans in the form of regulations, advisory, taxes, policy and Acts”.
It proposed that the availability of junk food and carbonated drinks be restricted in schools and in the area of 300-500 sq yards adjacent to it and regulate and restrict marketing and promotion of sugary drinks and HSSS junk food.
It also proposed that the government write to celebrities endorsing targeted food, pleading with them to reconsider as they influence impressionable minds, and promote healthy eating habits instead. The revenue collected by imposing tax on food and beverages containing HSSS should be used for projects aimed at improving community health.