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Junk food ban in hospitals on way

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JUNK food and other unhealthy edibles could be banned from sale at government hospitals and health centres.

Health Ministry nutrition experts have proposed the measure in a bid to encourage healthy eating among staff and patients.

It follows a review of existing menus at medical facilities by the ministry's Public Health Directorate nutrition section.

'We asked officials concerned from the health centres to send us their canteen menus, which were reviewed by our team,' said section chief Dr Nadia Gharib.

'The menu contained junk food, chips, poor quality sweets and other unhealthy edibles.'

One plan is to install healthy vending machines in hospitals and health centres, instead of those selling chocolate and other junk food.

The healthy options would offer fresh fruits, oatmeal and milk, rather than fizzy drinks, biscuits or chocolate.

Dr Gharib singled out the canteen of the country's main hospital, Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC), as an example of what not to serve patients and staff.

'Some of the food items sold include burgers and sausages,' she said.

'Even if they cook vegetables or meat, it contains excessive oil.

'It is important for us to talk about these issues and correct ourselves, because several patients and their families consume at least one food item from these hospital canteens.'

Dr Gharib said SMC had its own nutrition section that was responsible for providing patients' meals, but the canteen and other vending machines were operated privately.

'One of the plans we proposed was to replace the vending machines selling fizzy drinks, chocolates and chips with fresh fruits and cold sandwiches with healthy fillings,' she said.

A similar initiative was already carried out in school canteens between 2012 and 2013.

'We had to change this unhealthy pattern to deal with growing problems among schoolchildren, who are either obese or overweight,' said Dr Gharib.

The last national survey on obesity showed that more than 70 per cent of adults in Bahrain were either overweight or obese.

It also revealed that 25pc of schoolchildren were obese or overweight.

Dr Gharib said latest figures were not available, but she believes the situation has deteriorated.

'A burger sold in the school canteen had over 40pc fat and children consume fizzy drink over milk,' she said.

'We did manage to change the menu of school canteens and now are pushing for hospital canteens to do the same.'


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