Monday, 30th October 2017

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What will the health ministry snack on? Not biscuits

Ministry cuts down on biscuits at official meetings

  • Published 29.06.19, 6:40 AM
  • Updated 29.06.19, 9:10 AM
  • a min read
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A June 24 circular sent to the health ministry’s protocol section and its departmental canteen says the health minister, Harsh Vardhan, wants “healthy snacks only” to be served at official meetings and that biscuits are to be avoided. (Shutterstock)

Some children in Bengal have been brought up on the home-grown wisdom that overdosing on biscuits is tantamount to “bish koot-koot (nibbling at poison)”.

Now that wisdom has reached the corridors of the Union health and family welfare ministry, where biscuits will be replaced at official meetings with healthier snacks such as dry fruits and roasted chickpeas.

A June 24 circular sent to the health ministry’s protocol section and its departmental canteen says the health minister, Harsh Vardhan, wants “healthy snacks only” to be served at official meetings and that biscuits are to be avoided.

“Henceforth, biscuits shall not be dispensed through the departmental canteen and healthy snacks only like lahiya chana, khajoor (dates), bhuna chana (roasted chickpeas), badam (almonds), and akhrot (walnuts) will be served in official meetings in the department,” the circular said.

The advisory is by no means a pioneering one although it is uncommon in the government. Some private companies have switched over to healthy snacks at meetings.

The health ministry circular added that an earlier order against using plastic water bottles should be “implemented in letter and spirit”.

A health ministry official said the initiative was intended to curb the consumption of unhealthy snacks and raise awareness about healthy foods.

Biscuits, among other baked products such as cakes, crackers and pies, have traditionally been a source of transfats — a kind of fat the human body does not need and that public health experts say raises the risk of cardiovascular disease. But many companies have taken steps to reduce transfat content in their biscuit brands.

A study by the Central Food Technology Research Institute, Mysore, five years ago had found that several brands of commercial biscuits sold in India contained up to 3.2g/100g of transfats. The study had said that transfat levels at 0.1 to 0.5g/100g should be considered a zero transfats level.