Promoting healthy diets in Montevideo

Promoting healthy diets in Montevideo

Since 2017, the Municipal Health Department has been working with Partnership for Healthy Cities About ways to improve the availability of healthy food to citizens. This particularly included restrictions on salt consumption. In 2018, the city issued a new ordinance requiring restaurants in Montevideo to contain at least 10 percent of their menu items without added salt.

A healthy diet helps protect against malnutrition in all its forms, as well as non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.1 However, in many countries, a lack of access to healthy food options, changing lifestyles, rapid urbanization, and increased production of processed foods can create environments in which a healthy diet is difficult. Many people now consume more energy-dense foods, fats, free sugars, and salt/sodium, which can increase their risk of health problems, and do not eat enough fruits, vegetables and other dietary fiber such as whole grains.

In Uruguay, non-communicable diseases caused 85% of deaths in 2016.2 The city of Montevideo has a long history of pursuing healthy food policies, which reflects a national commitment to promoting healthy diets. The country has several policies in place to promote healthy diets, including a national target for sodium consumption, but progress has been mixed. In recent years, there has also been a marked increase in the consumption of ultra-processed foods that contain high levels of calories, fat, sugar and salt.

Following the successful implementation of a 2018 decree to reduce salt on restaurant menus, city authorities are promoting the provision of healthy foods through other means. On June 30, 2022, Montevideo
Introduce a decree establishing new nutrition standards for food and beverages It is served and sold in 48 institutions and general hospitals in the city.3 The decree includes restrictions on the sale of unhealthy foods, such as a ban on advertising of ultra-processed foods.

To support the implementation of the new standards and encourage compliance, the city has included incentives for the respective institutions. These include some form of tax exemption: establishments that comply with the standards will not be required to pay the “tasa bromatol√≥gica” that the city has required since 2007.
4 Vendors in the workplace can also win “healthy canteen” status if they take steps to make healthy options available to patrons – a status that indicates their commitment to protecting people’s health while ensuring they are well fed. To achieve a healthy canteen classification, the establishment must meet a list of requirements such as a menu that relies primarily on natural or minimally processed foods, not advertise unhealthy foods, and provide water dispensers that are clearly visible and accessible to workers.
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An accompanying communication campaign was launched to emphasize the importance of healthy eating in the workplace, and to raise public awareness of the new decree and the availability of healthy food options.

Workplaces covered by these standards directly employ more than 8,000 people and serve several thousand more. It is hoped that the new standards will reinforce the city’s intent to make “the healthiest choice the easier choice” for its nearly 1.7 million residents.6

For more information about Montevideo’s work to promote healthy canteens, please visit: https://montevideo.gub.uy/areas-tematicas/salud/cantinas-saludables

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