Schools told: cut the junk

Un­health­i­est can­teens to face fines

7 Days in Dubai - - NEWS - By Nawal Al Ramahi

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”.

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