Punjab Food Authority imposed a ban on soft drinks' supply to educational institutions on 14th August, 2017, although many schools and colleges had started accepting the reform since last year.
A recent nutrition threat to come under the radar of the Punjab Food Authority “PFA” is banning of the soft drink in educational institutions. It is a universally acknowledged fact that soft drinks are extremely harmful for everyone; especially children of growing age. The PFA took the action to ban the drinks as it claims that “carbonated drinks are injurious to health, affecting the physical growth of children”. There is no nutritional value in soft drinks, only detrimental ingredients. They are full of sugar, most contain caffeine and they fill the stomach and take the place of good nutrients.
A list of all problems created by consuming these soft drinks is a non-exhaustive one. There are some educational institutes that already follow the protocol of not offering soft drinks in their canteens. In order to safeguard the health of children and adolescents, this practice should be adopted by all educational institutes irrespective of whether there is a government action in place or not.
While there is another school of thought of certain individuals who believe that people have a right to eat/drink whatever they want- if a person chooses a carbonated drink over a healthier beverage then that is their decision. Banning a certain type of drink isn't going to change much if anything at all.
But we need to ask ourselves this question before giving our opinions over whether soft drinks should be banned or not; what is the end goal here? Soft drinks are dangerous to one’s health and it can lead to obesity and stunted growth. Since school is a place where the children are learning to discipline themselves, by introducing the ban, the students will get a message that these drinks are dangerous. If there if an urgent need to consume these soft drinks, then the same can be done outside the parameter of the educational institutes. By banning the soft drinks, the government will essentially deter the accessibility of the soft drinks to the younger generation.
However, while a commendable initiative has been taken by the PFA to pass a bill imposing a ban on soft drinks, one should also look at the possibility that all educational institution can bring it upon themselves to ban the availability of soft drinks and other junk food, and should instead encourage the students to eat healthy, have healthier options available in the canteen. The activity will slowly make an impact on the eating habits of the students by ensuring that healthy intake of food by students during school hours.
Justice Ayesha Malik recently reiterated in one of her recent judgments that the reason PFA was established to ensure that food health and safety officers were granted the power to act immediately as they deemed fit. The PFA’s strategy should be studied and replicated by other provinces so that children across Pakistan are kept away from sugary drinks while in school/college. Instead of allowing the powerful producers of junk food to target children, more efforts must be made to encourage healthy eating habits so that youngsters are provided with nutritious foods and snacks that aid their physical and mental growth.
Another initiative being taken is planning an awareness campaign to encourage lunch boxes for children. While some countries already have a ban in place, Pakistan needs to step up its proposal to a healthy diet by ensuring everyone adheres by it and strict penalty is imposed on those who don’t.
But is the ban on schools/colleges subject to time and place enough to eradicate the dangers of consuming soft drinks in the longer run? Some might say that such a ban won’t create any difference in targeting the unhealthy intake of soft drinks. However, in the longer run, this will only benefit our society as enforcing such ban has to be imposed on a smaller scale first especially the children as above 40% of the children are hit with stunted growth and more than one quarter of the entire sales of fizzy drinks are generated from educational institutes.
In our parting words, we believe that even though it is essential to highlight the importance of the action being taken by the PFA, the government must not stop at this and should then focus on the healthcare of Pakistan by improving school nutrition, and monitoring and evaluating the regulation of moving towards a healthier society as a whole.