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Home > Mumbai > Mumbai News > Article > Maharashtra Impose fat and sugar tax on processed food items

Maharashtra: ‘Impose fat and sugar tax on processed food items’

Updated on: 05 March,2024 06:58 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Dipti Singh | dipti.singh@mid-day.com

Educationists, child psychologists, and parents call for cakes and chocolates in campus celebrations to be replaced with fresh fruits

Maharashtra: ‘Impose fat and sugar tax on processed food items’

UK has implemented taxes on sugar, sugar-sweetened beverages and high-fat, sugary, salty products. Representation Pic

Key Highlights

  1. Non-profit organisations have written to the chief minister and the Union minister
  2. Urging them to introduce taxes on fat and sugar content in packaged food items
  3. The associations have called on schools in the state to implement changes

The non-profit organisations Early Childhood Association (ECA) and the Association for Preparatory Education and Research (APER) have written to the chief minister and the Union minister of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, urging them to introduce taxes on fat and sugar content in packaged food items.


The associations, which include academicians, educationists, child psychologists and parents, have called on schools in the state to implement changes by discontinuing the practice of distributing cakes, chocolates and similar items during birthday celebrations, replacing these with fresh fruits.


This nationwide campaign was initiated following a survey conducted by ECA and APER two months ago with a survey sample of 3,000 parents about the food habits of their children and the McDonald’s case. As per the associations, the introduction of such taxes will help discourage excess consumption of foods containing high percentages of sugar, salt and processed fat, which lead to obesity among many schoolchildren.


Also Read: Maharashtra: Dy CM firm on no eggs, govt looking at ‘veggie protein’

The proposal/letter to the state and Union government suggests imposing a 14.5 per cent indirect cess, or “fat tax”, on items like burgers, pizzas, tacos, doughnuts, sandwiches, pasta and bread fillings sold by restaurants under a brand name or registered trademark. Furthermore, to safeguard the overall health, especially that of children, the introduction of a health tax on sugar in Maharashtra is advocated, it reads.

Around 75% of parents who were asked said yes to applying stringent rules and laws on sales of fast food and junk food to kids. Representation Pic
Around 75% of parents who were asked said yes to applying stringent rules and laws on sales of fast food and junk food to kids. Representation Pic

Several countries especially the United Kingdom (UK), as mentioned by the ECA, have already implemented taxes on sugar, sugar-sweetened beverages and high-fat sugary and salty products. The organisations also cited the example of Kerala, which became the first state in India to propose such a tax, though it was not enforced.

Batting for fruit

In a recent campaign titled "say no to junk," the ECA has urged schools to discontinue the distribution of cakes, chocolates, packaged drinks and wafers during birthdays, replacing them with fresh fruit. Moreover, visits to soft drink factories, malls and locations promoting excessive salt and sugar intake should be stopped too.

In a letter dated February 4, to the Union Ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distributions Swati Popat Vats, president of ECA, stated: "Recently McDonald’s was identified for misleading promotion of non-cheese items as cheese, basically using substitutes. This can lead to health-related issues in children and to curb all such hidden practices, ECA and APER urge you to bring about food inspection and labelling practices so that children of Maharashtra can be assured of a healthy childhood. Children may be 20 per cent of our present population but they are 100 per cent of our future. If we do not focus on their diet and health, we will have fractured youth who will have health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems and more."

The ECA and APER have requested the government to mandate food chains and restaurants to display sugar-salt-fat content per serving on menus, packets, etc. “Following the UK's example, India should introduce colour-coded labelling to indicate at a glance whether a product is high (red), medium (amber), or low (green) in certain nutrients,” the statement added.

The letter further read: “Please find attached the poster with points that we are urging parents and schools to follow. We have initiated a campaign #chuckthejunk and #saynotojunk and #bewisechooseright. Please help us make India stronger with healthier children.” A study conducted by researchers at Oregon State University and published in the journal, Neuroscience suggests that high-fat, high-sugar diets have a detrimental effect on cognitive flexibility or the power to adapt and adjust to changing situations, stated the survey.

The survey

“Concerned about obesity and unhealthy eating habits amongst school-going kids, we initiated a survey with parents about the food habits of their kids. The survey was conducted with 3,000 parents, spread over three months. The survey covered many things, including parents’ knowledge about the food they let their children eat,” said Vats.

She added: “When parents were asked if they would like there to be stringent rules and laws about sales of fast food and junk food for children around 75 per cent said yes. Further when asked whether they think schools must get healthy alternatives to cakes, sweets and chocolates distributed during school birthday celebrations 48 per cent responded yes.”

As per the ECA, governments have passed rules for schools to foster healthy eating in the past. She emphasised, “Implementing these changes will hold all stakeholders accountable for the health and well-being of young children. Corporate profits should not outweigh our children’s health and well-being, and companies need to understand this to ensure parents receive the necessary support in making informed purchases for their children. We have urged schools to design snack box menus excluding junk food from snack breaks.”

“Healthy food should not be imposed as a rule and we should strive to make it a way of life instead. If implemented as a rule it will only be resisted and so education about the facts is very important. We know of the obesity argument for staying away from junk food. But when we talk about children, we must also be worried about the impact of diet on their learning and thinking skills,” Vats explained. The association has also released posters containing information charts detailing dos and don'ts for parents and schools.

List of demands

1. Making it mandatory for all food chains and restaurants to print the salt-sugar-fat content per serving on their menus, packaging and boxes.
2. Colour-coded labelling that indicates if a product is high (red), medium (amber) or low (green) in certain nutrients, including salt-sugar-fat.
3. Introducing an indirect fat content tax of 14.5 per cent levied on burgers, pizzas, tacos, doughnuts, sandwiches, pasta and bread fillings sold by restaurants with a brand name or registered trademark.
4. Introducing a health tax on sugar

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