Haredi supermarket in Jerusalem
Haredi supermarket in JerusalemFlash 90

Israel's food and beverage industry is worrying over the Health Ministry's plan to label unhealthy food and beverages with red warning stickers in six months.

It is expected that a full 60% of supermarket goods will display the red sticker.

The plan was initiated by the Health Ministry after Israel ranked first in percentage of obese citizens in a European list of countries. Israeli children ranked third in terms of incidence of obesity.

Supporting the new bill are Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (UTJ) and chairman of the Committee for Good Nutrition Moshe Bar-Siman Tov.

Last Thursday, Bar-Siman Tov told manufacturers they would be required to mark unhealthy products with red stickers. Manufacturers were furious at the fact that "unhealthy products" had a strict definition which would force more than 60% of their products to display the sticker.

"Forcing us to mark over 60% of our products as unhealthy is absolutely unfair," one manufacturer said to The Marker.

The affected products would be those high in saturated fat, sodium, and sugar.

Artificial food coloring, preservatives, unpronounceable ingredients, monosodium glutamate, added hormones, and other unhealthy ingredients would not require manufacturers to label the affected products.

In addition, the standards do not differentiate between food and beverages, causing the labels to not only be slightly inaccurate but entirely misleading. Also, they do not differentiate between unhealthy food with nutritional value - i.e., chocolate milk and pretzels - and unhealthy food without nutritional value - i.e., Cheetos and soft drinks.

Apparently, the Health Ministry is attempting to emulate Chile's nutritional reform. Chile rethought their food and beverage industry within a few months, changing over 1,000 ingredients to healthier versions.

Though the industry plans to fight the proposed law with all its might, the Health Ministry - and the Israeli populace - are hoping the threat of red stickers will cause a fast change for the better in the foods offered at Israeli supermarkets.