Government stops sale of “junk food” at school bars from September

A new government law will prohibit the sale of junk food – described as “products that are prejudicial to one’s health” – at school bars and vending machines across Portugal starting in September.

Included on the list of banned foods are over 50 products, including pizzas, hamburgers, lasagnes, hot dogs, cakes, sugary drinks, croissants, ‘chouriço’ buns, crisps, sugary biscuits, sweets and sugary gum, ice cream and a variety of ‘salgados’ (fried savoury snacks).

Sandwiches containing ketchup, mayonnaise or mustard will also not be allowed at schools.

Desserts deemed unhealthy, such as chocolate mousse or ‘arroz doce’ (sweet rice), are also on the list of banned foods.

The goal of the new ruling is to get schools to start replacing unhealthy foods with “nutritionally balanced, healthy meals”, the government says.

Schools have been given until the end of September to review their contracts with suppliers.

But as Lusa news agency points out, some school bars and vending machines may not be subjected to the new rules. As it explains, the new rules will only apply when schools are not obliged to pay compensation to their suppliers.

The government has also provided a list of the products that should serve as alternatives to all the products that school bars will no longer be allowed to sell.

According to the new rules, every school bar should provide “free drinking water”. They should also sell water bottles, skimmed and semi-skimmed milk, and yoghurts made from skimmed and semi-skimmed milk (“preferably with no added sugars”).

Sandwiches should be made with wholemeal bread with less than one gram of salt per 100g of bread and filled with either tuna, boiled eggs, purée made out of vegetable products, low-fat ham or cheese made with skimmed or semi-skimmed milk.

School bars should also sell a variety of salads, fresh fruit and soups. They are also allowed to sell a variety of snacks and fruit drinks, so long as they are made mostly of fruit and vegetables and do not contain added sugars. Herbal teas are also deemed ‘okay’ by the government.

The new rules are expected to have a “huge impact” on the country’s bakery industry.

“This is a measure that had already been announced and we had been preparing for some time, but it will still have a huge impact on our sector,” Arnaldo Baptista, president of the association of bread and bakery goods industry (Associação do Comércio e da Indústria de Panificação, Pastelaria e Similares), told Antena 1 radio.

“We are limited to just providing bread, a few salads and not much else,” he added, stressing however that businesses will have to adapt to a new niche of healthier options.

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