Junk food banned from school canteens in Dubai

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Dubai bans junk food in school canteens following growing concerns over obesity and lifestyle-related diseases among school going children.

Chocolates, chips, soft drinks, as well as dairy products with artificial flavours would be banned from schools as DM in association with Dubai Health Authority (DHA) draw up a new healthy food policy in an attempt to alarming rates of obesity among studens.

The new guidelines have been finalised by experts in DM and DHA and would be effective from this academic session, Gulf News has reported.

The regulations will also limit the sale of food and drinks that cause common allergies or are harmful to children with diabetes and other conditions.

School meals will be inspected for nutritional value and schools will be expected to make pupils and parents aware of the ingredients. As well as banning unhealthy food, the rules list foods that are encouraged, such as fresh fruit and vegetables.

Of the 216 schools, nearly a third served hotdogs and burgers, and nearly two-thirds sold sugary processed fruit juices. About 7 per cent provided fizzy drinks every day, and 1 per cent sold energy drinks.

A fifth of schools had vending machines, of which 12 per cent were stocked with soft drinks. More than half the schools provided fresh fruit salads, but only three times a week.

Now schools would be required to ensure all students consume a balanced diet of food that contains all necessary nutrients. The guidelines will require them to cover five food types comprising cereals, dairy products and fats, vegetables, fruits, meat and poultry products.

The stipulations draw from the Food Pyramid 2010 which consists of a colour gradient system of different food groups where specific quantities are recommended for specific age groups across kindergarten, elementary, intermediate and secondary levels.

The guidelines are very particular about the content of the permitted foods. For example, juices served must have a natural nectar content between 30-50 per cent, just as breads offered should preferably be made from wheat or whole grain, with the proportion of added sugar in starch foods not exceeding, 6gm/100gm.

At least three types of fresh seasonal fruits should be provided every day. Meats should be lean and skinless, while dairy and fat products should be low fat. Only pasteurised and UHT milk prepared from fresh milk (or processed) will be allowed, he noted.

Permitted foods

Carbohydrates : Wholegrains such as wheat, corn, barley, bulgur wheat

Vegetables: Dark green vegetables like spinach, radish, watercress, celery, parsley and others

Fruits: Variety of seasonal fruits

Dairy and fat products: Low-fat or fat-free varieties, milk and yoghurt with natural fruit

Meats, poultry and fish: Meat, poultry, fish, after removing the fat and skin. Lentils and beans can be added as an alternative to meat in soup

Banned foods

– Soft drinks

– Energy drinks

– Milk and yogurt with artificial flavours

– Chewing gum

– Lollipops

– Candies with dyes and sugar

– Pure chocolate

– Chips

– Foodstuffs containing monosodium glutamate

– High-fat foods such as burgers and other fried foods

In an effort to encourage healthier eating habits in children, the Uday Foundation has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Delhi High Court to ban the sale of junk food and carbonated drinks in and around schools across the country. Learn More