A bill has been drafted at the Ministry of Social Affairs under Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski which, among other things, would ban food of low nutritional quality and high in calories from Estonian preschools and general education schools with a full-time study program.
"School and preschool are the ideal place to interfere with measures aimed at preventing obesity, with which children's eating behavior is influenced in order to change knowledge about and attitudes toward food and the availability of food and drink products," it stands in the cover letter accompanying the bill. The goal is to ensure the protection of the health of minors and rule out the sale of food not supporting the health of minors in preschools and schools.
"Children are persons with restricted active legal capacity, but during the time they spend in school, they often have the opportunity to make decisions and conduct transactions on their own by buying different products meant to be consumed as food," the letter noted. "Children may not be capable of distinguishing between, and may not have sufficient knowledge about, which products support their health and which do not."
Although the restriction will constitute an interference with the freedom to conduct a business, it is nevertheless a measure that is proportionate in order to ensure the fundamental right of residents to the protection of their health. For businesses who have sales outlets on the property of such institutions, the opportunity exists to offer a variety of alternative products to children.
Data from a survey about the eating habits of the Estonian population shows that in 2014, 32 percent of boys and 30 percent of girls of ages 6-9 were overweight, while 34 and 35 percent, respectively, of boys and girls aged 10-13 were overweight.
A COSI (Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative) study conducted in 381 Estonian schools in 2016 showed that the products most commonly offered at cafes and vending machines on the property of schools in Estonia were confectionery products, juice drinks, sandwiches and soft drinks.
Editor: Aili Vahtla