Maharashtra Mulls Soft Drinks Ban in Schools
Ketki Angre
March 6, 2006

Mumbai: Maharashtra government is planning to impose a blanket ban on the sale of soft drinks in schools across the state.

The decision follows a report by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), which said soft drinks are bad for health and children are drinking too much of it.

The FDA says:

Sale of aerated soft drinks have touched an all-time high. The resultant health concerns are a cause of worry for everybody.

Various studies have shown that soft drinks are a major cause of abnormal weight gain (obesity) in children.

Higher concentration of sugar, impurities like pesticide residues, caffeine and its acidic nature are areas of major concern.

The argument seems to have found some support from the education minister who said the sale of anything that's harmful for students will be banned in schools.

"All food substances that are harmful for children should be kept out of school premises," said Vasant Purke, Minister for School Education.

Health risks

Much of the FDA report is based not on its independent research, but existing studies that point out the health risks of drinking cola.

Although cola companies refused to react on camera, they sent NDTV a release representing the industry.

"The industry has always recognised that schools are a very special place. Our industry listens closely to parents and local school officials, and ensures that the range of beverages sold in their schools reflects their wishes," said the release.

"Having said this, we have not received any communication relating to sale of soft drinks in schools in Maharashtra from the state government. Going forward, we plan to initiate a dialogue with the concerned officials to clarify all their concerns, if any," it added.

Blanket ban

But the fact remains that even before this FDA report, some Mumbai's better-known schools like St Stanislaus, Bombay Scottish and Poddar School had already stopped stocking colas in their canteens.

However, the FDA says it doesn't want to leave it to the individual choice of schools, but push for a blanket ban instead.

"I like soft drinks and I don't think there is any need to ban it in schools. If we don't get them in schools, we will buy them outside," said a student.

"We should be allowed to have colas as they increase our concentration," added another.

Banning soft drinks in schools obviously won't prevent kids from drinking it elsewhere. But it is a symbolic step that will make kids and parents aware of the risks.

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