Health Ministry Sets Example, Bans Burekas at Meetings

An Israeli chef seen preparing burekas at a restaurant in Be’er Sheva. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

With Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman railing against junk food, high levels of sugar, and trans-fats, the Ministry itself and the organizations it is responsible for ought to be the first place those items should be banned – and beginning this week, they are. “The refreshments served at meetings should reflect our values, and that includes replacing unhealthy fare with food that is healthy,” said David Fast, a top Health Ministry official.

Thus, junk food – including high-sugar snacks like cookies, sugary drinks including soda, as well as the Israeli favorite, burekas, are banned from meetings sponsored by the Ministry at its headquarters, or in any of the institutions – including hospitals – it is responsible for. Instead, meeting participants will be treated to yogurt, nuts, whole-grain crackers, cheeses and fresh fruits and vegetables – and they will be able to wash them down with water, coffee, tea, or seltzer.

The same rule will apply to conferences and events where hot food is served. Available as entrées must be salads, cooked or steamed vegetables, vegetarian dishes based on beans, whole grain dishes, such as burghul or whole-grain couscous, and desserts based on seasonal fresh fruits.

Besides practicing what it preaches, the Ministry hopes to provide a living example of how a workplace can inspire healthy eating. “When you offer healthy alternatives in the workplace you create an atmosphere that supports healthy eating,” said Fast. “Healthy fare will help Health Ministry employees avoid getting fat and ensure they remain healthy. This is a process we in the Ministry must lead, to show others it is possible.”

In recent months, Health Minister Rabbi Litzman has spoken out against junk food and 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. Also on the “bad list” is “shoko,” the little bags of sugar-laden chocolate milk that generations of Israelis grew up on, which will no longer be distributed in schools. In addition, the Education Ministry in conjunction with the Health 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.


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