In February 2013 the Polish Parliament began works on an amendment to the Act on Food and Nutrition Security which aims at reducing the percentage of obesity among Polish students aged 7-19.
Recent surveys conducted by the World Health Organization (“WHO”) show that almost 30 percent of Polish 11 year-old students are affected by obesity, and the number is constantly growing. The surveys identified two major causes of obesity among students, i.e. (i) consumption of unhealthy food (such as fast foods), which is sold inter alia in school canteens, cafeterias and shops, and (ii) lack of physical activity.
The upcoming amendment intends to reduce the impact of the first factor by prohibiting the sales, presentation and advertising of unhealthy food in schools. The prohibition concerns food and beverages containing ingredients recognized as “unhealthy”, including fats, unsaturated fatty acids and isomers of fatty acids, sugar and sodium. As a result, it would be banned to sell in school canteens, cafeterias and shops food such as: confection, margarine based products, various fast food, crisps, sweet beverages (both carbonated and non-carbonated) and energizers.
New provisions should also strengthen the supervision of school’s principals over school canteens, cafeterias and shops (in Poland such canteens, cafeterias and shops are always run by independent entrepreneurs). In case of breach of the prohibition, the school’s principal will be entitled to terminate the contract with the person or entity running the shop. Such termination will be immediately effective, despite any termination period stipulated in the contract, and will not require any compensation from the school. Furthermore, the sales and advertising of banned food in school will be subject to an administrative penalty in the amount not exceeding ca. EUR 120.000, imposed by the Sanitary Inspection.
As the vast majority of the assortment sold in school canteens, cafeterias and shops falls within the scope of banned food, the upcoming amendment is expected to have a major impact on the performance of school shops. Moreover, entities running school shops in over 30 000 Polish schools capture an important share in the whole food and beverage market. Consequently, the amendment may also be seen as a potential risk for the producers and wholesalers of confection, fast food and sweet beverages.
Nevertheless, the amendment is consistent with the views presented by WHO and EU which have already urged the producers of snacks and food in general to limit the usage of unhealthy ingredients as used in the past. Some local self-governments have already taken the same approach. The municipality of the capital city of Warsaw has recently launched a campaign advertising healthy nutrition in schools. Considering strong social support, the amendment is likely to pass through the parliament.