Arye Deri begins battle against obesity after nixing soda tax

Health Minister Deri ordered the rapid implementation of a number of steps meant to combat obesity and diabetes.

 Health and Interior Minister Arye Deri at the handover ceremony for the Interior Ministry, January 1, 2023. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Health and Interior Minister Arye Deri at the handover ceremony for the Interior Ministry, January 1, 2023.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

In light of strong opposition by health experts here and abroad to the abolition of the tax on soft drinks approved by the government, Health Minister Arye Deri told health professionals he would continue the fight to promote a healthy lifestyle, but did not agree to the restoration of the tax.

Ultra-Orthodox parties, who were the engine behind its cancellation, regarded the tax as “punishment” due to their communities’ high consumption of soft drinks. Haredim in Israel are known to have much higher rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease and do less exercise and have less health knowledge than secular and Modern Orthodox Jews.

Manufacturers and importers of soft drinks spend three times more on advertising to the haredi media than to the general population.

“The ministry, which is in charge of promoting public health, is obliged to act in practical ways to reduce the phenomena of obesity and diabetes. I will work with all my might in order to succeed in the fight.” He instructed officials to examine the rapid implementation of the following steps:

OUTGOING HEALTH Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov appears at a press briefing at the Prime Ministers office last month (credit: FLASH90)OUTGOING HEALTH Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov appears at a press briefing at the Prime Ministers office last month (credit: FLASH90)

1. Validation and production of a database that will allow tracking sugar consumption according to different sectors.

2. Promoting restrictions in legislation on the advertising of food harmful to health and promoting warnings about its harm.

3. Enforcement of the ban on the sale of sugary drinks and harmful food on school premises, in accordance with the regulations published on the matter.

4. Examining additional regulatory measures towards the industry for consumption in the future.

Among those present at the meeting was outgoing director-general and internal medicine specialist Prof. Nachman Ash and public health division head Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis.