For the Public Good, or Industry's?

There is no point in the Israeli government's interministerial program to promote healthy lifestyles as long as the deep, fundamental ignorance about nutrition persists.

A glance at the main points of the interministerial program to promote a healthy lifestyle conjures a sense of Chelm, here and now.

Spending money to breed fruits and vegetables with high vitamin and mineral content? Supervising school vending machines? Tax deductions for serving fruits and vegetables at office meetings? Restricting baked goods made with margarine? Putting calorie counts on restaurant menus? All these ideas put the cart before the horse.

Cheese counter Israeli shop
David Bachar

Simply put, there's no point to any of these regulations as long as the deep, fundamental ignorance about nutrition persists. This ignorance is expressed at every possible level, and earlier this month it made headlines when the U.S. Congress made it easier to count tomato sauce on pizza in schools as a vegetable.

As long as the public lacks the slightest clue about nutrition, more such proposals will continue to be issued that will have little effect on the public's weight and health. People who know nothing about nutrition will continue to scarf down junk food. As we all know, junk food - in all its various forms - is always cheaper, more accessible and easier than real food.

There are four other proposals that should be submitted to the cabinet and passed without delay:

1. Significant price cuts for fruits and vegetables, in particular; and plant-based foods (nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains ), in general.

2. Higher prices for processed foods, in general; and sweets, in particular.

3. Nutrition lessons in all schools.

4. An immediate end to all promotional content (not only during peak viewing times for children) implying that processed - or junk - food is recommended for consumption.

These four proposals, if and when they are passed and put into effect, are the only possible way to start the ball rolling on a process that places the health and welfare of the public, and not the interests of the manufacturers of processed food, at the top of its agenda. These proposals are the only way to fight the public's absolute, intentional ignorance regarding eating habits. They spell out what is important (public health) and what is not (business interests). They also guarantee that decision-makers will not confuse pizza with tomato sauce as a vegetable - or, in honor of Hanukkah, sufganiyot with jelly as fruit.