MKs who get thirsty will from now on have their choice of beverage – as long as that choice is water or seltzer (soda water), or coffee or tea if they prefer. Soft drinks, juices with added sugar, and other sugary drinks are off the menu. In addition, water and seltzer will be offered in pitchers; individual plastic bottles are off the table as well.
According to Knesset Director-General Albert Sacharovich, the move comes “for environmental and health reasons.” The Knesset, he said in a letter to Knesset administrators, goes through some 80,000 bottles of soft drinks annually, served during Knesset committee sessions; a similar number is consumed in the Knesset dining room. The move to pitchers and away from bottled soft drinks will reduce the garbage generated by the Knesset by at least 50%, he said.
The elimination of soft drinks is another step in the efforts to raise health consciousness among Israelis. Burekas, rugelach, and other fattening carb-rich foods have already been banned by the Civil Service Authority. Such snacks are no longer served by government offices and agencies at meetings. Instead of the usual high-fat foods served at meetings, the Authority wants to see more fruit, sugar-free yogurts, nuts and whole grain-based cakes and sandwiches, and other healthier foods at these events. The order also affects lunches served at offices and events, and here, too, the emphasis will be on whole grains, vegetables, and a sharp reduction in the amount of sugar served. Fish and lean meat will be preferred, and chicken will be served without the skin. Fried foods will be significantly limited.
The change has affected dozens of organizations, including all government ministries, the courts, the Knesset, the Tax Authority, government hospitals, police and fire stations. The Authority said that the move was designed to battle the increased levels of obesity among Israelis, responsible for a slew of diseases, from cancer to diabetes. Lack of exercise and poor nutrition are among the chief culprits in the poor health of Israelis.