The Abu Dhabi Department of Health (DOH) wants partner restaurants and other cooked-food suppliers in its Weqaya program to reduce the salt content in program-approved dishes by 25 percent.
In a recent announcement, the DOH said it expects compliance to the new standards by August 2019.
“We don’t have to be sick to eat healthy.” Weqaya ambassador Amani Saqallah said during the announcement. Saqallah was an early pioneer from the private sector in the program.
Currently, a Weqaya-approved dish cannot contain more than 0.8 grams of salt per 100 grams of the end product. The planned 25 percent reduction would bring the salt content down to 0.6 grams per 100 grams of food.
Weqaya was introduced by the DOH in 2008 as a free health screening program to keep the public informed on the region’s major health issues: diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases. It grew to include the nutrition-labeling program in 2014.
The labeling program is often known as the DOH’s “healthy choice” list. Its roster of participating outlets includes restaurants as well as non-restaurant food preparers such as catering companies that provide food to schools, universities and hotels.
Over 30 restaurants and food suppliers are signed up to the program. Among these are the Emirates Palace and Hilton Al Ain hotels and Shawarma Time. Etihad Airlines is a new addition to the program. Restaurants are allowed to show Weqaya-approved dishes on their menus with a blue heart logo.
The DOH also said it wanted every hospital in Abu Dhabi to provide only Weqaya-approved food by the end of the year.
Alexa Mena is a multidisciplinary artist and media editor for livehealthy.ae. When she's not writing for livehealthy, she's thinking about design and how it shapes the human experience.