Someone has to take the ball, in terms of educating the consumer over healthy eating and obesity issue, whether it be healthcare, schools or the food and beverage industry, according to Dr. Graham Simpson, founder of Intelligent Health.
Speaking at the Catering News ME Big F&B Forum, held at the Ritz Carlton, JBR, yesterday, Dr. Simpson said: “We know what kills 80 percent of the population today and it’s not cholesterol – that has nothing to do with health. Sugar is killing 80 percent of us. More than half of us have diabetes or pre-diabetes here in the UAE, which is second largest nation in the world of diabetes, and it’s completely reversible.
“The food and beverage industry has a huge obligation in educating people,” he added.
Ghida Walid Sarieddine, Hygiene & Quality manager at Royal Catering, added: “One of the problems is the high level wastage with healthy food – the industry needs to be invested as it will lose money.
“The government needs to take a bigger role in education – like the ‘Change for Life’ campaign in the UK. There must be a drive from the government to set guidelines, and to tell restaurants they can’t open with less than 10 percent of healthy food options.”
She added: “We have no nutritional facts on our food and the government should play a role in this. We need education on what we are eating and the amount of bad foodstuffs in our diet.”
Dr. Simpson said: “The government subsidises bad food – like fructose corn syrup – so why not take from the junk food industry and subsidise good food.” But Ghida warned: “Even if they tax junk food it will still be cheaper than healthy options, so what is needed is to subsidies good food.
Hayley Mac, co-founder of Be Super Natural, suggested the government should look at taxing bad ingredients. “We over complicate everything. Fat is not bad, our brains need it, sugar is the killer and so are man-made ingredients. We must be all honest about ingredients in our dishes, especially in restaurants,” she added.
However, Debra Greenwood, director of Dubai Food Festival at DTCM, had welcome news. She said: “The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education are studying ways to encourage every restaurant to have at least three healthy food options in every menu.”