Spain’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs, headed up by Alberto Garzón, proposed a new draft bill on Thursday in a bid to improve nutrition in schools.
The new law aims to promote a quality, healthy and sustainable diet for youngsters and states that school meals contain a minimum of 45 percent fruit and vegetables.
Currently, each of Spain’s regions has its own rules regarding school dinners and Garzón wants to make sure that minimum quality standards are set across the country.
In addition to promoting the Mediterranean diet and using fresh and local food the draft bills states that:
- Food should be cooked in healthier ways, such as baked, steamed or grilled, as opposed to battered or fried.
- At least 5 percent of the meal should be organic or sustainably produced.
- Extra virgin olive oil should be used for salad dressings, while only sunflower oil or cooking olive oil should be used for frying.
- Salt, sugar, flavour enhancers and concentrates should be reduced.
- Tap water should be available for drinking.
The draft will be debated, and suggestions and modifications can be added over the next 15 days before it is passed onto parliament, where it is expected to be approved sometime during the first half of 2023. If approved, the new law will come into force for the 2024-2025 school year.
Despite the fact that Spain is known for its Mediterranean diet, much of its cuisine is fried (particularly tapas) and contains red meat. Main meals as part of the menús del día rarely contain any vegetables.
According to a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Spain has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the EU, where 40 percent are considered overweight. Obesity levels among children in Spain have doubled in the past 20 years.
In July 2022, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced an eight-year plan to help reduce these rates in children and this draft bill is just one of the ways the Spanish government plans on doing so.
Spain’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs has already regulated the advertising of sweets, energy drinks and confectionary products aimed at children, while Garzón has been trying to encourage Spaniards to eat more healthily for the last few years.
In January 2022 Garzón caused an uproar when he said that meat from Spanish mega-farms was of bad quality and further anger was aimed at him back in July 2021, when he urged the population to consume less meat.