Next Health Battle: Candy, Says Rabbi Litzman

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
Israel Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

After taking on fast food and salty snacks, candy – specifically licorice – is next on the agenda of Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman. According to a report in Yisrael Hayom, Rabbi Litzman has taken up the matter after a parent brought the matter to his attention last week. After examining the licorice he was shown, Rabbi Litzman said that kids had no business eating licorice. “It’s like the rubber you find in a car, it’s very hard. We are trying to protect children in many ways, and at the end of the day we give them something like this that can be very harmful,” said the Health Minister.

According to Rabbi Litzman, “there are several versions of this candy, but none of them are any good. The licorice candies in question are mostly made of gelatin, food coloring, preservatives, and flavorings and are considered unhealthy for children.”

The war on licorice is part of his war on junk food in general, he said. In several weeks, Rabbi Litzman will represent Israel in a World Health Organization conference on diabetes. “Unfortunately, diabetes is a worldwide plague, and we have it in Israel as well, as the by-product of obesity. We will examine very closely all of these kinds of candy, and increase our supervision of these products. Anything that is harmful will be subject to being kept out of Israel.”

Last month, Rabbi Litzman railed against fast food – specifically pointing to fast food chain McDonald’s, which has dozens of branches in Israel – and called on Israelis to avoid such establishments, for the sake of their health. In cooperation with the Health Ministry, the Education Ministry announced that subsidized lunches served in school will cut high-calorie, high-fat, high-sugar content and nitrite-laced processed foods like cakes, cookies, croissants, wafers, french fries, hot dogs, kebabs, and even beloved schnitzels. In their place will come lighter, healthier fare, including hard boiled eggs, yellow cheese up to 9 percent fat content, cottage cheese, 5 percent spreadable white cheese, tehina, tuna, low-fat hummus.

According to statistics supplied by the Central Bureau of Statistics and analyzed by the Ministry, 44 percent of Israelis – nearly one out of two – are overweight or obese, and the same is true of 21 percent of first-graders. By seventh grade, 30 percent of kids are overweight.

Rabbi Litzman – along with many health professionals – believes that junk food is largely responsible for this situation, and he is considering numerous legislative initiatives to curb consumption of junk food. Among those initiatives are labeling – cigarette pack-style – the packages of snack food to emphasize their calorie and fat level, along with a “health score,” to be determined by professionals, which will rank food products on a scale between 1 and 10 (or 1 and 100) on its desirability. The healthier a food – taking into account its nutrient level, calorie, fat, sugar, salt, and other factors – the higher a score it will get.

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