Abu Dhabi: Health care facilities can no longer serve unhealthy foods in their cafeterias, vending machines and restaurants after November 29 under a new regulation announced by the Abu Dhabi Department of Health on Tuesday.

The law mandates that only healthy food items which meet the department’s Weqaya criteria be served in food outlets across health care facilities. For instance, items must have limited salt and sugar, provide a healthy amount of calories and be rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals.

This would mean that soft drinks and calorie-laden desserts could no longer be served to patients, visitors and staff.

“The department has begun to actively engage with representatives from various public and private health care facilities and a number of expert nutritionists. We held an educational workshop to familiarise them with the necessary criteria they need to meet so that they can quickly begin adopting the Weqaya specifications before the November deadline. In addition, we are encouraging food businesses to incorporate a Weqaya healthy food scheme by labelling packaged meals with the Weqaya safety food logo following approval on their nutritional content,” said Dr Omniyat Al Hajiri, director of public health at the department.

The initiative is part of the department’s continued efforts to minimise the rise of chronic diseases caused by unhealthy food habits, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and cancers.

The Weqaya healthy food specifications were introduced in 2013 by the department in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority to spread awareness about healthy eating. In order to affix the Weqaya logo to pre-packaged foods, the Quality Conformity Council (QCC) should also issue its approval.