translated from Spanish: More water and less salt: recommend simple measures in casinos and restaurants

“We don’t need more research, but concrete actions that don’t involve thoughtful action in the consumer, but assertive and intuitive interventions in public spaces.” José Galgani, head of the Research Area of the Nutrition and Dietetic Career of the Pontifical Catholic University, pointed out, after a study with undergraduate students who analyzed the spontaneous consumption of running water in casinos that had the service of improving the per capita rate of fresh water consumption in work, college and school casinos.
The study recommends including water service at any food dispensing establishment, and eventually replacing the bread with butter; as well as taking the salt shaker off the table in casinos and restaurants. The measures proposed, with very low investment and a predictable positive response on the part of the community, also seek to add to other municipal and legislative projects that seek to promote healthy lifestyles from the public spaces, schools, hospitals and businesses.
In Galgani’s view, the stamp law and the nutrition labelling law is a thoughtful analysis of the decision to buy a packaged food, and under the alarming scenario of obesity and sedentary figures in all age segments, Chile is urged to have a intervention of public spaces with intuitive measures that do not involve thoughtful actions of consumers.
The specialist points out that countries such as France require the delivery of tap water to all consumers entering restaurants, while Chile already has the traditional delivery of bread with butter or pebre installed, as a pre-menu service, contributing to increase the consumption of additional carbohydrates and fats, in addition to the incentive of free.
Nicolás Cobo, a teacher at the School of Studies Law and a member of FAO’s Right to Food Observatory, explains that food involves habits and these cannot be modified in immediacy by decree. You can give incentives. Faced with this situation, the disciplines of economics, law and psychology indicate that simple decisions often achieve better results, as is the case with the savings decision.
“Experts talk about the concept of “libertarian paternalism,” which it protects but does not oblige. If you put fruit on the trays of school casinos at the beginning of the delivery chain, the measure shows increased fruit consumption in schoolchildren. The same is true if you put drinkers in public spaces. The idea is not to ban the salt shaker, but to prevent consumers from leaving the dish even before trying it. Just like banning the sale of stamped products at school kiosks, which requires providing a healthier offer, even if kids can still bring them from home or buy it in the trade,” adds the academic.
The fight against obesity has been to promote healthy lifestyles, including better eating and more physical activity. The academy-supported governments have helped educate the population about the benefits of healthily eating and being physically active. In this sense, Galgani assures that this paradigm that appeals to the intellect so that reflexively and consciously decides to eat healthily and move more, has failed; this is because the human being in his daily life, which includes eating and moving, exists in a pre-reflective state that in food responds to choose the most accessible, intuitive and fast option.
“Thus, health promotion must appeal to this pre-reflective character. To do this, positive reinforcements or indirect suggestions will help make less intuitive, difficult or infrequent decisions in which their benefits are long-term,” says the researcher.
Academics suggest two simple actions that can improve the quality of food, such as the mandatory supply of 300 cc of tap-to-person water served in casinos and restaurants, as well as removing salt from tables served. In the first case, the investigation notes that the request for water implies a conscious decision of the individual and usually the resistance of service personnel; while in the second, the presence of salt at the table is a common practice that promotes its use even before tasting food, while the project proposes to remove the salt shaker from the table, which does not imply its prohibition. This small barrier can be effective in reducing salt intake.
For Galgani and Cobo these measures are simple, low cost and extensive coverage. In addition, they are consistent with two of the Minsal Food Guides. “These measures have been implemented or are part of the custom in other countries. For example, Uruguay eliminated salt shakers from the tables, while in France, the supply of water to the consumer is one of the first actions of the service. These measures can be a first step in designing other more complex actions aimed at promoting healthy lifestyle habits. The implementation of these measures requires the political will of the competent bodies.”

Original source in Spanish

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