Jerusalem – From bans on oversized sodas in New York City, to taxes on sweetened soft drinks in Mexico, to an FDA ban on trans fats, doctors, nutritionists, lawmakers and others have spent years trying to curb unhealthy eating habits, but a new government initiative will make Israel just the second country in the world to require certain foods to carry warning labels advising consumers of their poor nutritional content.
Israeli news site Globes reported that Israel will be following in Chile’s footsteps, which began labeling foods with high sugar, fat or sodium content as unhealthy choices in June.
Under the recommendations submitted to Israel’s Ministry of Health, the Israeli program will slap red warning labels on similar foods beginning in January 2018.
“This is an amazing breakthrough,” said Professor Itamar Grotto, head of the Ministry of Health’s public health services department. “In Europe and the U.S., there have been discussions on this for years without reaching the decision to label. This is revolutionary.”
Israeli children drink even more sweetened beverages than their American counterparts and consume more than double the recommended daily allowance of salt.
Israel also ranks high in death due to diabetes, with the second highest mortality in the world for Israeli men and third highest for women.
Arutz Sheva reported that Israel’s health minister, Yaakov Litzman, has been working hard to transform the Israeli diet and raise nutritional awareness, noting that Israel has among the highest per capita sugar consumption and child obesity rates in the world.
“The Health Ministry is determined to eliminate these phenomena, to protect public health and to prevent disease,” said Litzman.
Two more stages of the program would be rolled out in eighteen month increments which would further restrict the recommended allowances of sugar, fat and sodium and will
include salty cheeses, children’s cereals, processed meats, snacks, sweets and sauces including ketchup. The program will also impose limits on the advertising and marketing of red-stickered foods.
In contrast, consumers will be urged to choose foods labeled with green stickers indicating their positive nutritional content and the program will also promote educational efforts designed to encourage healthy eating.
A popular Chanukah favorite, doughnuts, found themselves in Litzman’s crosshairs last week, as the health minister called for Israelis to avoid the fat laden treats.
“One can find healthy replacements for everything today and there is no need to feed our kids doughnuts that are incompatible with the values of health and proper nutrition,” said Litzman.
Also on Litzman’s hit list? Chocolate milk, which was banned for distribution in Israeli schools in November.
“We have to stop giving our children this garbage,” said Litzman at a conference in Tel Aviv.
Litzman’s ban on traditional doughnut notwithstanding, Israel’s Burger King announced a special item on its menu in honor of Chanukah: the SufganiKing, a hamburger sandwiched between two halves of a donut instead of the traditional bun.
Burger King has two locations in Tel Aviv that are designated kosher by Rabbanut Tel Aviv, and the special holiday burger, which will be on menus through the end of December, will give Israelis an opportunity to enjoy one last sugary, fat laden treat before the new rules go into effect.