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Spain: Fresh fruit in vending machines for students
With the start of the new school year, those in charge of some Spanish secondary schools have decided to remove all industrial bakery and fatty foods from their vending machines and replacing them with healthier ones, such as fresh fruit, whole wheat bread or non-fried nuts.
It is, for example, the case of the Region of Valencia, where the regional government is drafting a decree law under which secondary schools can only have vending machines that sell healthy foods, such as skimmed and semi-skimmed milk, low fat and sugar free yogurts, wholemeal bread and fresh fruit.
Other products can be sold as long as each portion does not exceed 200 kilocalories and the fat content does not exceed 35%, as explained to Efe by sources of the autonomous government.
Nutrition experts stress the importance of healthy eating at an early age and recall that in Spain more than 40% of children suffer from overweight-related problems.
In 2011, with the Socialist Party in the government, the Food and Nutrition Security Law was passed, which prohibited the sale of food and beverages with high contents of saturated and trans-fatty acids, salt and sugars in primary and secondary schools.
However, the origin of this initiative goes back to 2005, when the Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs, headed by Elena Salgado, promoted the Strategy for Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Prevention (NAOS) with the aim of improving dietary habits, especially during childhood.
Following this healthy trend, secondary schools in most regions have removed their vending machines or replaced the foods on offer for others meeting the requirements established by the corresponding Council.
In this sense, the Council of Education and Universities of the Government of the Canary Islands is working together with the Directorate General of Public Health in the preparation of an inventory of those schools that have vending machines to verify that the regulations are being met.
It's different in the case of the Basque Country, La Rioja, Catalonia, Andalusia, Castile-La Mancha or the Chartered Community of Navarre, where the management of the school decides the type of machine, as well as the products offered.
For its part, the Council of Education of the Community of Madrid emphasised the scarce presence of this type of machines in the canteens of secondary schools, on which this administration does not carry out any type of control.
Meanwhile, in the Balearic Islands, where the use of vending machines in secondary schools is decided by the school's governing council, the Department of Public Health of the Balearic Health Council has already drafted a decree to prohibit the sale of those products that it considers harmful.
In this context, the president of the Official Association of Dietitians and Nutritionists of the Balearic Islands, Manuel Moņino, believes that childhood obesity is a challenge that "remains to be overcome" and advocates creating environments where healthy food consumption is facilitated.
"It would be incoherent for the food in vending machines to have an impeccable nutritional profile and then no fruit was served in the school canteen," he added.
Moņino believes that these foods should not be excluded from the diet, although they should be consumed occasionally. "If we have twelve soft drinks a year, nothing will happen," he stated.
According to the latest data (from 2015) of the Ministry of Health, 41.3% of Spanish children are overweight.
Publication date: 9/20/2017
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