UAE bans supersize fizzy drinks in obesity battle

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The UAE has banned supersized fizzy drinks as part of a raft of new health measures announced by the government, as the Gulf state looks to reign in burgeoning obesity and lifestyle disease rates.

The federal cabinet came to the decision following the second day of what it described as a “brain-storming” session at a Sir Bani Yas island, and comes on the back of a similar idea being introduced in New York City earlier this year by mayor Michael Bloomberg.

According to a recent United Nations report, more than one third of the UAE’s population is classified as clinically obese, while a separate study said that 20 percent of adult Emirati citizens suffer from diabetes.

The wealthy Gulf state is also the fifth highest consumer of soft drinks globally, with each resident on average guzzling 103 litres per year, a World Health Organisation study said.

The Cabinet also approved a package of other measures to address obesity and promote healthy lifestyles, which includes imposing controls on advertisement of unhealthy foods.

Other initiatives approved by senior government officials included a comprehensive screening programme for every UAE citizen in a bid to enhance disease prevention and launching an early cancer detection programme.

Health chiefs will also establish a national database for medical records to allow easy referral of patients between government and private hospitals.

In his concluding remarks to the two-day ministerial retreat, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE's PM and vice-president, said: "The health of our citizens cannot be measured by any cost and treatment anywhere is a vested right for them."

He added that the government had drawn inspiration from the thousands of ideas and suggestions put forward by the public prior to the Cabinet retreat.

"It is our duty all to accelerate the pace of development and progress. With every day that passes, the government will be better than before because the source of new innovation and ideas, whether from citizens, employees or specialists, will never deplete and this is one of principles of action of our government."

The delivery of better medical services was a joint task for the federal and local governments and the private sector, he said.

Other health initiatives which received backing included standardising benchmarks of accrediting doctors and healthcare professionals, setting a strategy for establishing research centres in partnership with academic institutions, establishing a national cancer registry and launching a programme to attract more Emiratis to the nursing profession.

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