Schools told: cut the junk
Unhealthiest canteens to face fines
Schools are to face fines if they fail to cut junk food from their canteens, Dubai Municipality officials have said.
State and private schools will have to offer lowcalorie, low-salt alternatives as part of efforts to cut obesity and health problems in children.
Noura Al Shamsi, Head of Food Permits and Applied Nutrition at the municipality’s Food Safety Department, was speaking to 7DAYS at the First Dubai International Conference on Applied Nutrition.
Last month, the municipality hit out at schools after it was found that some are still offering fries, chocolate, croissants, burgers and sugary drinks – five years after they were first asked to cut out junk food.
She said: “This conference follows several initiatives about the importance of heathy food in schools and the Municipality has followed a plan to spread awareness about this topic. Later on, schools will be fined if they don’t follow the nutritional guidelines given by the municipality.”
Al Shamsi said the penalty is still being considered.
The conference was organised after figures last month showed an estimated 33 per cent of pupils are overweight or obese, while 20 per cent of the UAE population has diabetes.
At the time, Dr Suhail Al Rukn, Head of the Stroke Unit at Rashid Hospital, said many UAE residents need “urgent lifestyle changes” to prevent strokes. He also said the average salt intake in the UAE is 15g per day – almost eight times the recommended 2g.
Saadia Noorani, a public health nutritionist from World Action on Salt & Health ( WASH), told the conference that most people have a low awareness of their salt intake. She said: “We consume 75 to 80 per cent of salt… from processed food, packaged food or restaurants. Among the main contributors of salt intake is bread – because usually people eat a lot of it.”
The UAE has no tax on junk food, but Noorani urged all countries to take “significant measures to reduce the amount of salt intake, including a tax on salty foods”.