In a bid to improve public health in general, an overhaul of food and drink consumption will ban offers such as ‘free bottle of wine with every meal for two’, shots on the house after dinner, two-for-one drinks offers, and anything else that involves alcohol being used as a bait to draw in customers.
Open bars will also be banned if director-general of public health in the region, Juan Martínez Hernández, and Madrid’s minister in charge of the area, Enrique Ruiz Escudero, bring their ideas to fruition.
They will also make it compulsory for anyone in the Madrid area who handles food professionally to be able to speak Spanish – including restaurants, bars selling snacks or meals, grocery shops and food stalls – so that they can answer any questions customers may pose, including allergy and nutritional content information.
Vending machines are ‘a problem’ for public health, particularly in terms of obesity, Ruiz Escudero and Martínez Hernández say – so they will enforce a rule that 30% of all products displayed must be of nutritional value, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts and dairy products.
All public areas, especially bars and restaurants, must make drinking water free and available to anyone who needs it, and bars, in particular, are required to take steps to prevent ‘irresponsible consumption’, such as by refusing to serve customers who are already very drunk.
‘Super-sized’ portions of food or drink, including those labelled ‘extra-large’, ‘XL’ or ‘Maxi’ will be banned – they are at best wasteful or off-putting, and at worst, dangerous to health, the officials say.
How far the regulations go is under debate at present – Martínez Hernández says some vending machine franchises may consider it a positive move to ‘diversify’ their offer, whilst others may not, and the ‘open bar ban’ will not intrude on the family environment, although it is questionable whether this would be allowed at weddings or family parties in hotels or similar complexes.
Also, it is not clear whether all-inclusive hotels would be expected to limit alcohol or charge for all bar soft drinks.
A straw poll across Spaniards, in general, has sought to work out why the public may not be following a healthy diet, and the most-cited reason – that of 52.9% – was that of lack of time to buy and cook fresh produce at home.
Another 13.9% cited a much wider variety and availability of ready meals and frozen ‘heat-only’ produce, whilst 12.5% said they ate out too often to be able to ‘control’ their dietary intake, 9.6% admitted lack of knowledge of what was healthy and how to cook it, whilst 7.7% cited the much higher prices of fresh and nutritious produce compared with convenience food.
Only 1% admitted to being ‘too lazy’, whilst 0.6% said the pace of modern life meant they did not have time.
The survey found that 45% of society believed themselves to be overweight – 31.8% only slightly – whilst 42.5% considered themselves to be a ‘normal, healthy’ weight, 11.1% called themselves ‘slim’ and 11.1% ‘very slim’.
But statistics show that at least 51% of Spanish adults are clinically overweight.
Whilst the majority gave their diets a 7.26 out of 10 for healthiness and nutritional content, in practice, 55% rarely eat any of the ingredients involved in the traditional ‘Mediterranean diet’, said to be one of the most recommended.