Authorities in Dubai issued new health guidelines for Dubai school canteens yesterday in a bid to curb unhealthy eating habits among school students.
Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and Dubai Municipality (DM) issued a comprehensive school canteen guideline to maintain the health and safety of students as well as encourage them to follow healthy eating habits.
Foods that are not permitted include high caloric value foods, food with artificial flavours and food that have poor nutritional value, the two bodies said in a joint statement.
“Every school in Dubai will have to form a nutrition committee and students, parents, teachers and school administration will all have to be part of the committee and play an active role in promoting healthy eating practices,” said Dr Fathia Hatim Al Mazmi, Head of Health Promotion Section, Public Health and Safety Department within the Health Policy and Strategy Sector at the DHA.
“The aim of this guideline is to raise the nutritional standards across all schools in Dubai to meet the highest specifications and to promote healthy nutritive practices in school in accordance with international recommendations,” said Laila Al Jassmi, CEO of Health Policy and Strategy Sector at the DHA.
She acknowledged that making kids choose healthy foods over fatty ones wasn’t going to be easy, but maintained that it was nevertheless necessary. “This is not going to be easy, but it is imperative to inculcate these habits at a young age to ensure our youth are healthy and active,” she said.
The guidelines will be implemented in all public and private schools in Dubai from the start of the new academic year in September, the statement said.
“Schools are an environment where children spend many hours in the day and therefore it is crucial to promote and support their knowledge with regards to healthy nutrition in schools,” Al Jassimi said, adding that the guideline will direct the concerned authorities in school to provide children with a variety of healthy foods and drinks that are high in nutritional value.
According to Dr Ali Al Marzooqi, Director of Public Health and Safety Department within the Health Policy and Strategy Sector at the DHA, the new guidelines are based on international evidence as well as experience and expertise of the two local bodies in this field.
The guideline was formed after a survey of canteens in 216 Dubai schools, he said.
“The guideline emphasises on incorporating healthy meals keeping in mind good carbohydrates and the food pyramid colour-grading system,” he said.
Khalid Sharif, Director of Food Control Department at the Dubai Municipality said that the regulatory requirements for the safe handling of school nutrition are divided into two sections. The first category is those schools which do not prepare the food in their canteens but source it from external food supplying companies.
For this category, all regulations relating to the distribution and sale of food which is not prepared in the location where the food is sold is applicable. This includes a number of specific requirements which need to be followed including procuring food from a list of food suppliers approved by Dubai Municipality.
“The other category is canteens that prepare food in the school premises and for this there is a specific set of requirements which need to be followed. Canteens which prepare and provide food to students have to adhere to requirements that include following specifications in terms of the kitchen's design and catering in accordance with Dubai municipality food handling safety guidelines.”
Khalid added: “The control mechanisms for school canteens will include periodic inspections. The aim of these inspections, which will be conducted by health inspectors, is to improve the performance of schools in terms of nutritional guidelines and ensure that they implement all the requisite food safety standards.”