Spain's Ministry of Consumer Affairs has presented a draft proposal which will see school meals become healthier.
The move will see a healthier menu which will promote the Mediterranean diet with a minimum amount of locally sourced seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Furthermore, the Ministry wants to ensure that only healthy culinary techniques are used in the preparation of the food including baking, steaming and grilling. Deep-fried and battered foods will be discouraged under the plans.
Availability of food alternatives for those with certain medical conditions and allergies will also be a feature of the legislation.
"Given the amount of time children spend in school, as well as the fact that many schoolchildren consume at least one main meal a day there ... the school environment is key to stimulating healthy eating behaviors and patterns in all social classes, behaviours that can be maintained until adulthood,” said the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
According to a 2019 study, more than 40% of Spain’s 6 to 9-year-olds are overweight with 17.3% considered to be obese. This places Spain in fourth place of the European countries with the highest prevalence of childhood obesity.
Fernando Rodríguez Artalejo, professor of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the Autonomous University of Madrid warns that the “situation is bad”.
"What is not talked about so much is that, once someone develops obesity, it is very difficult to lose weight," explained Rodríguez Artalejo.
"The vast majority of obese adolescents will be obese all their adult lives, people who are overweight will not lose it with current measures, it is very difficult to change habits. Practically no country in the world has managed more than to stop the growth of obesity, none has managed to reduce it sufficiently,” he warns.
"Childhood obesity is the beginning of many other related diseases, which as adults end up generating a significant cost," explains Albert Arcarons, member of the High Commissioner for the fight against child poverty.
Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, some cancers are the most common, "which will also appear earlier in people's lives. This is a small bomb," warns Professor Artalejo.
The draft decree will be presented at a public hearing this Thursday, September 15 and encourage those who are interested to submit their comments and proposals to improve the legislation.
The decree will also aim at unifying the sector at state level which at the moment is regulated by regional governments.
For example, in the Community of Madrid, their legislation speaks of a menu that is “varied, balanced and adapted to the nutritional needs of each age group,” but fails to go into any specific details.
The Ministry anticipates that the Royal Decree will be approved during the second half of 2023 and come into force for the 2024 and 2025 academic years.
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