August 16th, 2006

Russia to Ban Soft Drinks and Snacks in School Canteens

By Neil Merrett
CEE-Foodindustry.com

Carbonated soft drinks, sweets, and potato chips, will not be sold in school canteens throughout Russia from September 1 of this year, under a new initiative announced by the country’s chief sanitary doctor, Gennady Onischenko.

The measures are an attempt to promote healthier eating habits amongst children to prevent the affects of poor diet which – behind alcohol and tobacco consumption – are estimated to be the most prominent cause of disease burden in the federation.

In a report for the World Health Organisation (WHO) focusing on Russian health; factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and low fruit and vegetable intake, were estimated to contribute for around 40 per cent of disease in the country.

Dr Timothy Armstrong of the WHO stated that the ban was certainly “a start” in combating poor diet, particularly in institutions like schools.

“As children are effectively captive in the school environments for several hours a day, it is a perfect opportunity to promote good eating habits, and for some children it may be the only place they can do this.”

In announcing the ban, Dr Onischenko announced that milk shakes and other milk products would replace popular snacks in order to promote healthier eating amongst pupils. However there is wider concern that instead of focusing solely on food in school canteens, a multi-faceted solution to promoting a balanced diet is needed throughout Russian society as a whole.

“Outside of the school environment we need further measures for healthy eating to come into play, particularly in emerging markets,” adds Dr Armstrong.

In a report published by CVC consulting last year, it was estimated that the current boom in the Russian snack market, particularly with products like potato chips which are relatively new to the country, has seen them become a regular part of many children’s diets.

In response to the report Julia Bychenko, project leader at market research company Komkon, said that Russian children were taking to ‘junk’ food at an increasingly young age.

She said“At the age of 4-6, Russian children are already major consumers of potato chips (81 per cent), chocolate (78 per cent), crackers (71 per cent), chewing gum (70 per cent) and carbonated beverages (66 per cent).”

While it seems weaning children entirely away from snacks, sweets and soft drinks may be a near impossible task, Dr Armstrong believes we are seeing greater calls for the need for balanced diets.

“As emerging markets in Africa, eastern Europe and the middle east, show a desire to engage with Western products, Governments and NGO’s are pressing companies more than ever to balance their own profits, with the needs of their consumers for healthier diets,” He said. 

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