The Hindu, March 16, 2008

Preferring pizzas, followed by noodles, aerated drinks and ice cream

JAIPUR: Believe it or not, children of even traditional cities and towns are increasingly getting hooked to junk food these days. Among the school-going children in the age group of 9-14 years here in the Pink City, as many as 65 per cent have been found to be interested in having junk food in the lunch box while 43 per cent prefer aerated and canned drinks to “doodh” (milk) even when the Chief Minister herself promotes the habit of drinking milk through her advertisement campaigns.

A new survey titled “Lunch box challenge”, conducted among the school children of Jaipur city on the eve of World Consumer Rights Day by the CUTS Centre for Consumer Action, Research & Training (CUTS CART) found the pizza the most preferred junk food followed by noodles. Among the unhealthy drinks and desserts, aerated drinks were the first choice while ice creams came next. Though the main reasons for the liking, as mentioned by children, were taste and look, in that order, the third reason given was the TV advertisements which played a major role in influencing their choices. “Every year the World Consumer Rights Day is observed on March 15. This year’s theme, ‘Junk Food Generation’, is to attract the attention of the international community to the campaign against the marketing of unhealthy food to children,” said George Cheriyan of CUTS CART.

The CUTS CART survey was conducted among the students of classes IV to IX. Out of all the students who took part in the survey, 58 per cent were boys and the remaining, girls. The most preferred item among the healthy dishes was the traditional roti and sabji/dal. Pav Bhaji was second and poha the next. Among the healthy drinks, 26 per cent children liked fresh fruit juice, compared to only 11 per cent opting for milk, the most abundantly available nutrition in Rajasthan.

Unhealthy dietary habits are a cause of major concern the world over. The World Health Organisation has identified being overweight as a global problem, pointing out that more than 300 million people are obese. About 22 million children around the world under the age of five are overweight and there is a need prevent the spread of the childhood obesity. “The survey finding clearly shows the need for advocacy and campaign for an international code on the marketing of junk food to kids,” observed Mr. Cheriyan.