City council wants limits on schools’ food calories

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City council wants limits on schools’ food calories

A bloc of Seoul Metropolitan Council members yesterday proposed a ban on calorie-heavy foods and beverages in Seoul’s school cafeterias in an effort to combat childhood obesity and foster healthier eating habits.

Eleven members of the council, led by Kim Yong-seok of the Saenuri Party, want food products that contain more calories than the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety’s recommendations to be removed from the cafeteria lines.

Kim identified soda, hamburger, chocolates and instant cup ramen noodles as candidates for removal.

If passed and implemented as the council members intend, the ordinance could affect the lunch habits of students at 1,200 elementary, middle and high schools in Seoul and other facilities such as teen libraries run by the city for young people.

“It’s well known that high-calorie, low-nutrient foods can trigger unbalanced nutrition and stunt the development of teenagers and children,” Kim said. “If schools and children’s libraries are ordered not to sell such products, it would help foster healthier growth of our young generation.”

But the proposal would not be binding on schools. It would require that the mayor use his influence with district office heads and the city’s superintendent of education by “active recommendations” of such food bans.

The details of the proposal have not yet been announced. For example, it is unclear whether the recommendation for bans would include only carbonated soft drinks or also cover sports drinks, sweetened fruit drinks and other beverages also high in added sugar.

The proposal would also try to force the removal from school lunch rooms of posters and other advertising of less-healthy food and drink items. It calls for tracking the eating habits of the city’s children and convening sessions with students to discuss food and nutrition.

In 2006, a bill to ban the sale of carbonated soda in schools nationwide was proposed at the National Assembly, but was not acted on.

Teenagers seem to crave sugary drinks, and the growing intake of sugar by young people has kept the Food Ministry on edge. The average daily consumption of sugar by teenagers was higher, at 69.6 grams (2.4 ounces), than that of any other age group, according to the results of a survey released earlier this month. Soft drinks were said to be the biggest contributor to that sugar intake.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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