Wouldn’t it be great if we could tell parents living in Gulf countries that their kids are getting fat because they’re being fed too many McDonald’s burgers, and have them respond by adding some greens to their diet? But this isn’t what happens. Even though a 2010 national school health survey in the United Arab Emirates revealed that 40% of school-aged children are obese because their parents feed them poorly, no effort has been made to change these behaviors.
So, the Ministry of Health has resorted to making feeding children junk food a violation of federal law, which the Ministry of Education will be required to monitor in public and private schools across all seven emirates.
10 Lashes per burger?
Existing regulations recommend healthy eating habits for Gulf students, but representatives from the Ministry of Health say that canteens across the UAE are ignoring them. So, a federal law that would require all canteens to follow unified guidelines is currently awaiting cabinet approval.
Under these new rules, junk food will be replaced with food recommended by the food pyramid. It’s simple enough to require caterers to supply healthy food, but the Ministry of Health is taking their fight against childhood obesity one step further.
“Tiffin boxes brought from home will be monitored so that parents also follow the guidelines and pack healthy lunches,” Dr. Mariam Matroushi, the Director of Health Legislation at the Ministry of Health told Khaleej Times. Which begs the question: if parents pack twinkies and potato chips, will the food be confiscated?
Or will the children be required to present their parents with a pink slip when they go home?
The health food mafia
Dr. Matroushi told the paper that at least 40 per cent of government schools have not been following existing regulations, which vary from emirate to emirate. But once they new legislation is approved, the Ministry of Education will be required to monitor them very carefully.
“They will be responsible for taking any stringent action against schools for not complying with the law,” she says.
Teachers, parents, and food companies that supply canteen meals will be spoon fed everything from how much food kids should be allowed to eat to what foods contain certain allergens.
Have we really become so dumb that we can’t logically deduce the causal relationship between eating too many saturated fats and sugars and obesity? And what kind of society needs a federal law to govern what children eat?
Image of kids and burgers from Shutterstock
More on Obesity and the Middle East: