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OBESITY

German pediatricians push for sugar tax to combat rising obesity

Germany's Professional Association of Pediatricians and Youth Physicians (BVKJ) on Monday called for the introduction of a sugar tax to tackle rising obesity among young people.

German pediatricians push for sugar tax to combat rising obesity
Photo: DPA

A look abroad shows that this is an effective approach, BVKJ President Thomas Fischbach told DPA. 

“With the introduction of sugar taxes – and thus higher prices – consumers there have largely lost their appetite for sweets, and the sales figures for sweet drinks have declined significantly since the introduction of the tax.”

The so-called alcopops tax – or tax on sweet alcoholic drinks – has demonstrated that legal bans on food products can work in Germany, he added. 

“After politicians imposed a special tax on the mixed liquor drinks popular with young people (in 2004), sales fell by 80 percent within one year,” said Fischbach. 

“This example, but also the examples of Mexico, France, Finland, Hungary and Great Britain, show that control mechanisms can effectively protect health.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called childhood obesity a growing problem in Germany. They found that 6.9 percent of girls and 11.2 percent of boys between the ages of five and 19 were obese in 2016.

The WHO called for advertising on sweet products and junk food to be better regulated as “young people are very susceptible to advertising up until the age of 16,” the WHO wrote in a statement. 

Half of all adults in Germany are overweight, according to the latest statistics released by Federal Nutrition Minister Julia Klöckner.

READ ALSO: ‘Too many German kids are overweight’: WHO calls for tighter ad restrictions

Nutri-Score

In the meantime, the association lauded a newly-launched action against obesity: the Nutri-Score, or a labelling system for the nutritional value of food. 

The so-called Nutri-Score on a supermarket product. Photo: DPA

“Its effectiveness has been proven in numerous scientific studies,” said Fischbach. “Parents will find it easier to provide healthy food for their children in the future.”

In addition to listing a product's sugar, fat and salt content, Nutri-Score also includes features fibre and protein in an overall score assigned a rating – on a five-letter scale from a dark green 'A' to a red 'E' for the least favourable.

For example, 'E' products with a high sugar and fat content which should usually be avoided, said Klöckner when presenting the system in late September.

The new logo is intended to supplement the EU-wide nutrition table, which is usually printed on the back of packs. 

The first products with the new logo are already beginning to appear in German supermarkets. The label is not mandatory, however, and food producers can decide themselves whether they want to include it on their products.

Vocabulary

Sugar tax – (der) Zuckersteuer

components/ingredients – (die) Bestandteile

The sales – (der) Absatz

To prove (something) – belegen

Content – (das) Gehalt (in other contexts can also mean salary or wages)

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ASPARAGUS

Only in Germany: McDonald’s begins offering ‘Spargel Burger’

Amid Germany's famous 'Asparagus Season', the fast food chain has begun offering an unusual twist on typical ingredients.

Only in Germany: McDonald's begins offering 'Spargel Burger'
A basket of Spargel in Kutzleben, Thuringia marked the start of this year's season on April 14th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Martin Schutt

How do you know that you’re definitely in Germany? One sure fire way: when you check the menu of a McDonald’s in the springtime and see a ‘Spargel Burger’. 

Germans are so enamored by the ‘white gold’ –  special light-coloured asparagus which is much thicker than its North American green counterpart – that it’s now a featured fast food at McDonald’s Germany, and with classic Hollandaise sauce and bacon to boot. 

On Thursday, the popular American fast-food chain restaurant – which counts nearly 1,500 outlets in Germany – published a photo of the “Big Spargel Hollandaise” saying that it would be available at select restaurants. They assured customers: “Yes, it’s really there.”

But its release was met with mixed reactions. “We absolutely have to go to McDonald’s sometime,” wrote one. Yet another called the unconventional creation “perverse.”

Another commenter showed skepticism: “Hollandaise sauce on a burger? Does that even taste good?”

Others weighed in on social media to point out that the product is a sign of Germany’s fascination with the vegetable. 

The burger is the latest to join the asparagus craze, with a phallic-shaped Spargel monument in Torgau, Saxony capturing the public attention – or bewilderment – earlier in the week.

An annual tradition

Every year, Germany typically celebrates ‘Spargelzeit’ (asparagus season) from the middle of April until June 24th, which many dub ‘Spargelsilvester’ (Asparagus-New Year’s Eve). 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Spargelzeit

The beloved vegetable, harvested heavily around the country, usually has its own special menu devoted to it at restaurants, and is sold in supermarkets – or road-side stands – next to jars of the classic Hollandaise sauce. 

The top states which grow the crop are Lower Saxony, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, but Beeliz, Brandenburg is also synonymous with Spargel in Germany. 

In normal years the tiny town hosts a sprawling festival to mark the start of the season, anointing a Spargel king and queen.

READ ALSO: Here’s why Germans go so completely crazy for asparagus

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