Project to improve nutrition loses funds

Rate of people suffering from type II diabetes rises by five percent every year, expert says.

Vegeterian food (photo credit: ANATOLI MICHAELO)
Vegeterian food
(photo credit: ANATOLI MICHAELO)
The budget for the “Efsharibari” program to promote better nutrition, established by the Health, Education and Sports ministries, has run out for 2014 and not been budgeted for 2015, the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee said during a discussion on diabetes on Tuesday.
Efsharibari (“Health is Possible”) encompasses a wide range of activities, such as supplying children in kindergartens with fruits and vegetables at mealtimes, promoting better nutrition in schools, and encouraging daily exercise for a variety of age groups.
It is developing a program to reduce the use of sodium and sugar in processed foods and working to restrict the advertising of junk food on TV programs for children. It also aims to pass a law for supervision of food quality in the educational system and plans the establishment of a special icon on packages of healthful, whole-grain bread and other products.
”The finance minister announced recently that he would add NIS 4 billion to the health budget, and the cost of Efsharibari is [only] NIS 26 million, so where is the money?” asked former deputy health minister MK Ya’acov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), who was acting chairman of the committee.
Litzman said that the phrase “no added sugar” that the health ministry permits printing on many food products was a “bluff,” as many have plenty of sugar in them.
Prof. Itamar Raz, head of the National Diabetes Association and the diabetes unit at Hadassah University Medical Center, said that the rate of people suffering from type II diabetes rises by five percent every year.
“This comes mostly from improper eating and the lack of exercise. In the Arab, Beduin, Ethiopian immigrant and haredi (ultra-Orthodox) communities, the risk is double due to the lack of awareness of the need to exercise. Drinking sweet beverages is a major factor in the rise in diabetes,” he said.
MK Amram Mitzna (Hatnua), chairman of the Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee, said that beginning at the end of January, regulations will prohibit the sale of sweetened beverages in schools.
“We will look into the possibility of limitations also on institutions of higher learning that are subsidized by the state,” he added.
The relevant government ministries must respond within two weeks to queries on the end of funds for Efsharibari, he said.
There are half a million Israelis who have been diagnosed with type II diabetes, and an estimated 200,000 more who have not yet been diagnosed.