The Himachal Pradesh high court has observed that only bio-degradable plastics should be allowed in packaging of food stuff from 1 April 2013 in the State.
Hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), the bench of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjay Karol issued the directions after referring to a committee report on junk food.
Based on the committee report, the court observed “it is obvious that junk food items are those which are low in fiber but tasty, contain high calorific value, large amount of refined flour and high amount of fat and preservatives”.
The judges said that banning them was not in the court’s purview but to comply with the state law (HP Non-Biodegradable Garbage (Control) Act 1995), “these harmful items which are classified as junk foods if sold in HP in packed condition should be sold only in biodegradable packing”.
This may make these items slightly more expensive and even if the consumption of these stuffs is reduced that will be better for the health of children and may finally end up saving crores of rupees which the state spends on health care, the judges pointed out.
It was on the court’s direction that a committee was constituted on June 19, 2010 to consider whether a decision could be taken to totally ban use of non-biodegradable packaging in Himachal.
The HP Non-Biodegradable Garbage (Control) Act 1995 prohibit traders, vendors and retailers from using polythene carry bags which was later (on July 7, 2009) extended to use of disposable plastic cups, plates and bottles.
While much of the plastic ban stands enforced in the state, the PIL was filed regarding the packaged food which was managing to slip through the law of the land.
The expert committee pointed out that ‘junk food’ had not been legally defined thus far. However, it recommended an illustrative list of food items that could fall in that category and are not good for human health.
The list of such food mainly supplied in non-biodegradable plastic packaging drawn up by the panel included chips, wafers, biscuits, lollypops, candies, candy bars, toffees, sweets, chewing gums, cheese puffs, cookies, ice creams, chocolates, noodles, sugary cereals, cornflakes and fruit cakes.
The court also expressed concern over banned polythene bags being used in some places and directed that the authorities to make penalties harsher.