New Delhi: Diet experts have said Indians are consuming junk foods more often than in the past, and have warned that this poses a major risk to their health.

Deputy Programme Manager at the Food Standards and Safety Authority of India (FSSAI) Savvy Soumya Mishra said that merely criticising international fast food chains for spoiling Indian dietary patterns is not enough.

She said that fast food had reached rural markets in the form of potato chips and soft-drinks and wished remedial measures are taken.

"Potato chips and similar snacks are available even in remote villages, where you may not find a school or a ration shop. These things have more reach. There will be soft-drink bottles in places that may not have even clean drinking water. McDonald''s and Pizza Hut may not have reached there, but chips and soft drinks have, what a pity!" Mishra said.

She further stressed on the importance of reducing children's access to trans fat-laden junk food, suggesting a ban on such eatables in schools.

"Imposing a ban is the government''s decision, but junk food must be banned in schools because it is difficult to restrain children. You can ban it in school and introduce fruits and fruit juices. There are also many things prepared at home. We grew up eating a lot of other things, traditional food. We did not grow on chips and packaged snacks like Kurkure," added Mishra.

Delhi-based cardiologist Dr. K K Aggarwal, said the problem of junk food was not just limited to food items like burgers and pizzas.

He said traditional Indian snacks prepared using vegetable fat were also a big threat. "We shouldn''t get carried away and just ban burgers. Everything that just tastes good is bad for health, because such things will either be made with ''ghee'' (clarified butter), which is very unlikely, or with trans fats sourced from vegetables. So, whatever contains trans fats is unhealthy, regardless of whether it is commercial or not," observed Dr. Aggarwal.

However, the commoners'' reaction towards junk seemed to be mixed.

"Young people these days prefer fast food. But as the report has said, one should avoid that food. As far as traditional recipes are concerned, we should go for that," said Suresh, a resident of the city.

The contrary opinion suggested that junk food was a necessity given the changed nature of people''s daily lives, and now came in many variants, some of them healthier than the rest.

"These days, people need their food quick. Many families have both parents working, so burgers and chips are very good alternatives for those who are in a rush. But these things come in many varieties. Now we have potato chips, which are baked. One can eat well, it is also a little costly, but we can''t say these things are useless," said Arpit, another resident.

The FSSAI pronounces products free of trans fats if they have less than 0.2 grams of trans fats per serving.

A recent report by the Centre for Science and Environment had accused many brands of labelling their products trans fat-free even though they contained it in large amounts.

Trans fat consumption increases the risk of coronary heart disease, leading to recommendations by health experts that they be consumed only in traces.