School lunches are still full of rubbish
Schools across the UAE are failing to comply with nutritional regulations and continue to dish up unhealthy food to their students.
Officials from the Ministry of Health said yesterday that 175 of the 427 government schools in Dubai and the Northern Emirates allow canteens to sell dinners deemed unhealthy by the authorities.
Dr Mariam Al Matroushi, director of the Health Legislations Department at the Ministry of Health, told 7DAYS: “This is a real challenge in our efforts to fight obesity among schoolchildren. The other programmes have been well received but nutrition has the worst reception in schools.
“Some school canteens continue to serve hot dogs, hamburgers, potato chips, breads, sugary soft drinks and juices that are clearly indicated in our guidelines as unhealthy.”
Dunia Sada, a senior staff nurse at a government school in Dubai, said many parents insist that their children eat what they like despite the health warnings, so canteen staff have to serve what is in demand.
Sada said enforcement of the nutrition health guidelines will guarantee success in the battle to reduce obesity.
Dr Khulood Eid Al Suwaidi, director of school health in Dubai Medical District, who covers government schools in Dubai, believes the education institutes are being slack because there are not enough nutritionists working in them.
“Each school has got a dedicated nurse and doctor but no nutritionist to enforce the guidelines,” said Al Suwaidi. “Also some schools are new and not well conversant with the guidelines while some school administrators simply ignore them because canteens make more money through selling unhealthy food.”
Health officials said the current bill on nutrition in schools is expected to be signed into law by the beginning of the next academic year.
“Schools that do not comply with the guidelines will face punishment once the bill comes into force,” said Dr Ola Mira, head of the School Health Department at the Ministry of Health.
She said the ministry is also working with health authorities and municipalities to come up with a unified health nutrition guideline that will add new foods to the list of those deemed unhealthy.
Government and private schools across the UAE must abide by the guidelines.