A vendor arranges tomatoes on his stand at the Mahne Yehuda market in Jerusalem. Rising food and fuel prices in Israel have brought public pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to announce tax relief measures and the country's biggest trade union is considering a national strike (February 9,.
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
The Health Ministry announced it is moving forward with plans to label foods it recommends as “healthy” with a green check mark, according to a ministry spokesperson. The symbol is meant to help consumers select food in line with principles of proper nutrition, as understood by the State of Israel.
The move is meant to “act with determination to improve the public’s diet,” explained Ministry of Health director general Moshe Bar Siman Tov. In 2020, the ministry plans to roll out a red check mark as well for foods that it believes are less healthy.
“The purpose of the food labeling process is to change the nutritional habits of Israeli citizens by providing information to the public about food values,” explained Deputy Minister of Health Yaacov Litzman. “It is food consumers’ right to know what is recommended and what is not.”
Research supports the idea that packaging influences consumer behavior. According to research published by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 70% or more of consumers use food labels at least some of the time. In 2017, the US passed legislation to update specific sections of the Nutrition Facts panel, making it easier for consumers to select healthier foods.
Prof. Ronit Andwalt, who directs the Nutrition Department at the ministry, said that among the foods that will receive the green check mark are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and animal products, such as dairy products and their substitutes, chicken, fish, and some beef. Foods likely to receive the red mark are processed foods, candies, and sweet drinks. “It is the right of all of us to eat healthy food throughout our lives from pregnancy, through childhood, adulthood and finally in our old age,” said Andwalt.
In order to determine foods deserving of the green check, an independent scientific committee was appointed to give recommendations. The ministry published a document on Thursday that was made publicly available to anyone interested. It includes professional and commercial bodies exploring two approaches for determining which foods are deserving of the green symbol.
The first option is to give the green check to specific foods directly named by the ministry’s scientific committee. The second is to put it on foods or combinations of foods, based on committee recommendations, but not specifically named by it. The ministry is scheduled to make a decision by August 5 based on feedback.
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