Ten years after the enactment of the National Food Safety Act (NFSA), the centre revised the nutritional standards for meals in school and anganwadis, increasing the proportion of calories and protein while mandating the inclusion of micronutrients.
The amendment is done on the advice of an inter-ministerial committee, which also recommended in its draft report that eggs be made mandatory as part of the government’s food safety programme. However, the proposal is currently on hold.
However, states and the Union Territories have no restrictions on adding eggs and other items to the menu of food safety programmes such as school lunches (now called PM Poshan) or the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) program in anganwadis covering preschool children as well as pregnant and lactating mothers.
“Even if states are hesitant to add eggs, they will have to revise their menus and add more items, including pulses and leafy greens, to meet the new standards. Currently, eggs are part of lunch in 14 states and UT,” a government official said.
In its draft report, the interministerial group recommended “urgent action”, arguing that the Covid-19 pandemic could exacerbate the “silent crisis” of undernutrition.
The revised NFSA Schedule II, published on January 25, identifies nutritional standards for nine groups, starting with children 6 months through 1 year and older children (VI-VIII). Three new categories have been created for malnourished children between six months and six years of age.
Nutritional standards for some existing categories, such as lower primary and upper primary classes, were revised. For example, under previous norms, every child in the lower primary grades was entitled to 450 kilocalories (kcal) and 12 grams of protein at lunch.
Now, the protein content has increased to 15-20 grams, while fat (18-21 grams) and carbohydrates (70 grams) are also part of it. The standards of trace elements have also been determined: calcium 170 mg, zinc 2 mg, iron 3.5 mg, dietary folate acid 50 micrograms, vitamin A 100 micrograms, vitamin B6 0.43 micrograms and vitamin B12 0.66 micrograms.