The Slovak government's intention to prevent and reduce children's obesity at schools has been introduced recently through a bill to the Slovak School Act No. 245/2008 Coll. restricting the sale of certain "inadequate and unhealthy" foods and beverages in the automat machines in the premises of elementary and secondary schools.
This initiative highlights concern at the dangerously increasing obesity levels among school children. Every year around 22,000 new patients suffering from diabetes are diagnosed in Slovakia. Equally, the consumption of sweet sparkling and flavoured beverages encouraging the obesity is rising very rapidly, mostly among the younger generation.
Across the European Union the issue of automatic vending machines at schools is being discussed in connection with the rising number of obese children and the serious health as well as economic impacts on the community. Every third child in the European Union is now classed as obese and this "obesity trend" among children will have a wider impact.
According to the member of the Slovak Parliament, Ms Zmajkovičová, principal initiator and introducer of the bill, automatic vending machines with "inadequate and unhealthy" food at schools encourage the children’s obesity. In her opinion, placing the automatic vending machines in the premises of school facilities, society legitimises the contents of the machines which are mostly sweets, sweet sparkling and flavoured beverages which are provided in lieu of the milk products, healthy and nutritional goods suitable for children. Among the goods to be restricted at schools are some popular children products like ice-cream, ice lollies, fast-food, and beverages containing coffee or quinine, caffeine and energy drinks, sweet and flavoured mineral waters.
Ms Zmajkovičová also highlighted that the only European country where the automatic vending machines at schools have been restricted generally since 2005 is France, which could be a good model for Slovakia when supporting the healthy growth and lifestyle of children and youngsters attending schools in Slovakia.
The bill in question will be a subject of further discussions in the Slovak Parliament shortly. Providing that the Slovak Parliament approves the bill, any restrictions will become effective as of 1 January 2015.