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Centre allowed to get junkfood guidelines examined by experts

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court today allowed the Centre’s plea that an expert committee would examine its recently-drafted guidelines on regulating sale of junk food and aerated drinks in and around schools premises.

“We have a seven-member expert committee. We would place the draft guidelines (on junk food) before the expert committee. Kindly give us four weeks time,” Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Rajeeve Mehra, appearing for the Centre, told a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana.

The bench, also comprising Justice Pradeep Nandrajog, allowed the plea of the Centre and said that in the meantime, private parties like the Restaurants Association may file their representations to the expert committee on the issue.

During the hearing, senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for one of the parties, opposed the draft guidelines of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) saying that private firm AC Nielsen QRG-MARG Pvt Ltd cannot be allowed to frame them.

“At best, it (AC Nielsen QRG-MARG Pvt Ltd) can collect the data, but it cannot frame guidelines,” he said. Similar plea was taken up by another senior lawyer Ashok Desai who said that the Food Safety and Standards Act has a specific provision and a private body cannot do this.

“The term junk food is a subjective term. A food item may be junk food for one and may not be for others,” Singhvi said.

“Such submissions would derail the process. The issue raised in the PIL goes beyond the Act (Food Safety and Standards Act),” the bench said. “We are looking at health issues. Obesity and even hypertension are becoming prevalent among children. We are aping the West,” the ASG said.

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