Qatar revives idea of compelling eateries to show food calorie contents

A US fast food outlet displays the calories in its meals.

Heidi/Flickr

A US fast food outlet displays the calories in its meals.

Authorities are revisiting the idea of requiring all eating establishments in Qatar to required to display the ingredients and calorific content of their meals, in a bid to improve the nation’s health.

Speaking yesterday on National Sport Day, Public Health Minister Abdullah bin Khaled Al Qahtani said that changes to the law were being studied so consumers would have the nutritional value and calorie content of food sold at restaurants, the Peninsula reports.

He added that the ministry was also working with the Supreme Education Council (SEC) to ensure that school canteens only sell healthy food, aimed at trying to stem the growing problem of childhood obesity in the country.

This is not the first time that authorities have talked about giving consumers more information, to help them make healthier meal choices when eating out.

Previous plans

Nearly three years ago, the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP) said it was set to order all fast food outlets to list their ingredients and calorie value on their menus or on a chart on a wall.

A comedic take at ordering fast food.

Al Anood Al Thani/Twitter

A comedic take at ordering fast food.

This request was issued after Central Municipal Council members called for disclosure of such information, and was expected to have come into force by mid-2012. However, the proposal never came to fruition.

Over the past several years, parts of the US and UK, as well as several others countries, have required particularly fast-food and snack outlets to display calorie information.

Qatar is under increasing pressure to take steps to tackle the obesity and health crisis facing its population, as more than three-quarters of its adult population are considered overweight or obese, according to an international study led by the University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle published last year.

Meanwhile, Qatar’s diabetes rate is one of the highest in the world, as nearly a quarter of residents here live with the disease, which can increase the risk of health complications such as kidney disease and blindness, as well as shortened lifespans, according to the International Diabetes Association.

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