Saudi Arabia bans soft drinks in schools

The government is pushing to improve the diet of school children across the country

The Minister of Education, Hamad Al Sheikh, is keen for education departments to enforce the ban on soft drinks by the beginning of the new school year next week. Reuters
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Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Education has banned soft drinks in schools across the kingdom for failing to meet health requirements, spokeswoman Ibtesam Al Shehri said.

The efforts are in line with the government's Health Transformation Programme, which is part of Vision 2030 — an ambitious project to modernise and expand all of the country's private and public sectors.

The education ministry will monitor school canteens to ensure they adhere to nutrition requirements set by authorities. It has also asked schools to allow the private sector to provide food and catering services, which will help to boost competition and improve efficiency.

"I am so glad they don't offer sodas, which have such a high sugar content," said Hajra Abdul, a British national living in Jeddah. "Bad choices can easily lead to diabetes and obesity in the future. I am happy to see there's a shift in the kingdom and leaders are taking health and fitness to the next level."

Maha Saleh, a woman in Jeddah, said: "It's really a relief to know canteens won't be serving high sugar content options and I hope kids can be offered healthier food options to help them lead a healthy lifestyle, as it helps parents who want to provide those for children at home."

The World Health Organisation says about 422 million people worldwide have diabetes, with the majority living in low-and-middle-income countries. It also says that 1.5 million deaths are directly attributed to the condition each year.

The Minister of Education, Hamad Al Sheikh, is keen for education departments to enforce the soft drink ban by the beginning of the new school year, Ms Al Shehri said.

Pupils return to school next week.

Updated: August 29, 2022, 4:53 AM