Healthy meal deliveries to be scrutinised

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Healthy meal deliveries to be scrutinised

Dubai - Eateries offering the so-called healthy food options will be required to prove their assertions.

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Published: Thu 29 Oct 2015, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Sat 31 Oct 2015, 8:51 AM

Dubai's growing healthy meal delivery service sector will be under the scanner as the emirate is launching new rules for regulating dietary and nutritional claims by food industry.
The pricey plans and programmes offer food with claims of natural, wholesome and balanced diet at the doorsteps of people who do not have the time and skill to make them.
These claims will now have to be verified and approved by the Dubai Municipality which has launched an exclusive section for applied nutrition under its Food Safety Department.
Many restaurants in Dubai have listed "healthy food" as one of their cuisines on a restaurant discovery site. These outlets, and other eateries and companies offering the so-called healthy food options like "low fat, high protein and sugar-free" food products will also be required to prove their assertions.
"Our goal is to regulate all food services that prepare meals with the healthy and nutritional tags and claims," said Jehaina Hassan Al Ali, principal food studies surveys officer at the department.
"Today it is not regulated or controlled. Many are using them for marketing purposes which could affect people's health. We want to encourage healthy eating in the market and restaurants. But it will have to be reliable and with scientific evidence."
She was speaking to Khaleej Times after making a presentation on Nutrition and Food Safety in Dubai at the 10th Dubai International Food Safety Conference on Wednesday.
Jehaina said the department is working on drafting guidelines and standards in collaboration with the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
Both entities signed an agreement to jointly work on the new initiative on the sidelines of the conference on Tuesday. A committee of nutritionists and dieticians with DHA will help in analysing the food and the claims, said Jehaina.
"Initially, we will keep it as a voluntary scheme for them (food services) to approach us and get our approvals for their claims. Once we develop a comprehensive system, it will be made mandatory."
"We have found multiple claims in the market. Some can prove it, others can't. We won't allow those who fail to prove their claims to mislead consumers."
Manufacturers will have to provide clear and accurate nutritional facts on the food items and eventually all the menus will also have to declare calorie content.
Signals in supermarket isles
Another speaker and nutritionist Hala Abu Taha said it is not necessary that people understand what they read on food labels.
Apart from the usage of readable font and accurate information on serving size, Taha suggested a light system similar to traffic signal to help distinguish healthy food items in supermarkets.
"If they keep food products in isles with red, yellow and green colour lights or signs to indicate the food type, it will help average consumers better - red for unhealthy choices (which need to be strictly controlled) yellow for foods that can be consumed moderately and green for healthy choices."
"Food awareness is the consumer's right and responsibility. The food industry should help consumers understand the meaning of what is given on the label and the nutrition claims."
She said the food industry needs to take a proactive approach in helping the country fight high levels of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases.
"The food industry can play a significant role in promoting healthy diets by reducing the fat, sugar and salt content of processed foods, ensuring that healthy and nutritious choices are available and affordable to all consumers, practising responsible marketing, especially when aimed at children, and by supporting regular physical activity practice in workplaces."

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