Health Minister Yaakov Litzman came out in a frontal attack against fast-food chain McDonald's and against unhealthy diets in general.
"There's no need to eat junk food. McDonald's out. Not in our country. There's no need to eat McDonald's," Litzman said at the Israel Heart Society's annual conference on Tuesday.
"I know there's pressure and I know there are people who don’t like it and big companies that don’t like it. I have a secret for you – I don’t have any primaries. I'm at the top of the list, there are no problems" he said, referring to his position as the head of the United Torah Judaism party. "I chose the Health Ministry because I thought it's a place where you can save people."
The Health Ministry recently launched a national program to prevent, treat and reduce the rate of diabetes. Some 600,000 Israelis suffer from diabetes, with some 90 percent suffering from type 2 diabetes which causes severe damage to health. It is caused, among other things, by a poor diet, obesity and lack of exercise.
As part pf the program, the selling of sugary drinks and foods at kindergartens and schools in the country was banned. The ministry is also running a program to promote a healthy lifestyle in the education system.
"Children should be educated not to eat junk food," Litzman said. "Not to eat so many sweets. It's right for diabetes and it's right for the heart. That's what we're going to do in the coming year – prevention."
Israel Heart Society president Prof. Michael Glickson said that "while in recent years we have managed to reduce the rate of deaths from heart diseases, heart attacks and cardiac arrests still take the lives of tens of thousands of people in the country, much more than terror attacks and road accidents. A significant portion of heart diseases can be prevented and detected early on. We hope that the Health Ministry will help us to boost the advocacy and awareness of the subject to save lives."
McDonald's responded to Litzman's comments. "We are sorry that the health minister chooses to express himself in a non-scientific manner and chooses populist remarks that make headlines but don’t reflect what is happening across the chain. McDonald's Israel carried out a comprehensive health reform over a decade ago that is highly respected in the European community."
"We hope that it isn't the operation of the chain on Shabbat that is at the base of Minister Litzman's irresponsible, unfounded and unscientific attack on McDonald's," it said, referring to the battle over businesses being open on the Jewish day of rest and Litzman's position as the head of an ultra-Orthodox party.
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