Schools in Dubai still dishing up junk food
Chips and chocolate on the menu despite alarming levels of obesity
Some Dubai schools continue to serve up junk in their canteens – five years after authorities asked them to cut out fatty foods.
Health and education officials said they found fries, croissants and chocolate on sale in a series of inspections in recent months.
Dubai Municipality criticised the schools as it was revealed that a staggering 64,000 pupils aged between five and 17 in the city are overweight or obese – 33 per cent of the total school population.
Dubai Health Authority and Dubai Sports Council are also involved in the study, which aims to understand what is causing so many young people to pile on the pounds.
Noura Al Shamsi, Head of Food Permits and Applied Nutrition at the municipality’s Food Safety Department, said: “Nearly 64,000 pupils are overweight and obese due to bad eating habits and barely doing any physical activity.
“Obesity is a complex problem in the UAE and indeed around the world. Therefore, we will be focusing on ensuring children learn healthy habits from a young age.”
The municipality first asked schools to cut out sweets, chocolate, energy drinks, fries, flavoured milk, sweetened yoghurt and crisps in 2011. Then in 2014 they reiterated the request in a detailed document on school menus.
Al Shamsi said the battle against obesity has to begin in school – but said many institutions are slow to pick up the message and some have simply ignored it.
In a project carried out this year, two schools, one in Deira and one in Bur Dubai, were asked to ditch junk food altogether. Al Shamsi said: “The municipality carried out a healthy eating pilot in two schools in recent months to test out new healthy eating menus – but the Bur Dubai school shunned the scheme and continued to offer junk food.” The authorities cannot issue an outright ban on junk food and cannot fine schools for not addressing their request. The obesity battle will be debated at the First Dubai International Conference on Applied Nutrition will be held on November 7-8 at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. Al Shamsi said: “We have a lack of regulations and policies that can support our actions to tackle nutritional issues. “Through the conference on Applied Nutrition, we want to look at the policies and regulations around the world and adopt the best practices.” All schools will have to address healthy eating in new classes, she added. Nutritionist Dr Hala Barghouti said pupils can still can buy junk food from supermarkets. She said: “Therefore, a class that would educate pupils about the risk of bad eating habits will help them adopt eating healthy practices.”