x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

School canteens banned from ‘junk’ and fast-food advertising to be controlled in UAE

Experts have long warned of the dangers of unhealthy eating and of the alarming obesity rates in the UAE.

The Cabinet has announced it will require calorie counts to be printed on food products, as well as limiting the size of fizzy drinks that can be sold. Wam
The Cabinet has announced it will require calorie counts to be printed on food products, as well as limiting the size of fizzy drinks that can be sold. Wam

Abu Dhabi // The Cabinet has announced it will require calorie counts to be printed on food products, as well as limiting the size of fizzy drinks that can be sold.

The moves, decided at yesterday’s retreat at Sir Bani Yas Island, are aimed at battling the widespread problem of obesity in the UAE.

They also include rules controlling the advertising of fast food.

In schools, canteens will be prevented from selling junk food and will have healthy food standards enforced.

While some schools have already introduced a healthy menu, the decision must be followed in all schools, private and public.

Experts have long warned of the dangers of unhealthy eating and of the alarming obesity rates in the country.

They predicted obesity and related health problems could triple among expatriates in the next decade and overtake smoking as the leading cause of preventable deaths.

Study results released in June this year showed one in three children in the UAE is overweight or obese and at risk of early diabetes and hypertension.

Researchers studied 1,440 children and teenagers aged 6 to 19 and found that 14.2 per cent were overweight and a further 19.8 per cent were obese.

“Obesity unfortunately exists among a large number of our kids and intervention is needed,” said Dr Abdulla Al Junaibi, consultant endocrinologist at Zayed Military Hospital and the study’s main researcher.

Most of the children studied were Emirati children and adolescents. A small percentage were expatriates.

They were categorised by their body mass index, which uses height and weight to estimate body fat against a child’s growth chart.

Problems were especially acute in children aged 11 to 15, of whom 40 per cent were overweight or obese, and 16 to 19, of whom 39 per cent were overweight.

In the 6 to 10 age group, 22.8 per cent were overweight or obese. As the children grew older, the likelihood of obesity increased.

At the end of yesterday’s session, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, praised the work that had led to the decisions on lifestyle-related illnesses.

“The retreat achieved one of its most important primary goals, which was to draw up ideas and programmes and agreeing on them – not between members of the council of ministers only, but also with specialists and those in the field,” said Sheikh Mohammed, also Vice President.

“The next phase will be a work and execution phase and follow-up.

“If we provide the same education and health services as 10 years ago, then we are 10 years behind, and if we said today what we said 10 years ago, then we have wasted 10 years of our lives.

“Therefore we need continuous development, bracing changes and to change our tools.”

newsdesk@thenational.ae