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Juici Patties: Company offers healthy meals, not junk food

Sunday, January 14, 2018

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JUICI Patties, a local restaurant with franchises in some Jamaican high schools, has come forward by stating that the company deliberately offers healthy alternatives as a solution to the convenience demanded by the lifestyle of people today.

This assertion comes following the results of the 2017 Jamaica School Health Survey, which indicated an increase in obesity rates among adolescents.

The 2017 survey, which measured behavioural risk and protective factors among 1,667 students aged 13 to 17 years old in 41 schools islandwide, revealed that 24 per cent of students (400) were overweight and nine per cent (150) obese. Of this number, more girls than boys were both obese and overweight, with 28 per cent of females being overweight and 10 per cent being obese, as opposed to 20 per cent of males being overweight and nine per cent obese.

The survey also revealed that 68 per cent of participating students were drinking carbonated drinks one or more times per day, over 50 per cent ate fast foods one or more days per week, and 20 per cent spent more than eight hours per day sitting. Over 60 per cent reported that they ate fruits and vegetables one or more times per day.

Since the results were made public, parents and health professionals have voiced their concerns with fast food restaurants being allowed to operate as franchises within schools, replacing traditional canteens.

Some even placed the blame for the increase in adolescent obesity rates with the offerings made by these restaurants.

Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid also responded to the concerns, indicating that a nutritional policy to address the issues in the survey will be rolled out by September, pointing out that the guidelines will insist that nutritional characteristics, as well as recommended servings of meals and products sold, are displayed in canteens so students can make informed decisions.

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said the school health survey indicates clearly that more must be done to address both physical inactivity and consumption habits among the younger population. He also said that Jamaica Moves will be going into schools this year to assist students to make smarter choices.

But Juici Patties said that the company was a family sensitive one regarding dietary needs of children, and completely understands the concern.

“Juici Patties stands out as a Jamaican restaurant that offers a wide range of products, with choices that are locally sourced, healthier options for all ages. It is the place to go to get your callaloo, yam, sweet potato, banana, ackee and brown stew fish,” the company said in response to questions from the Jamaica Observer sent last week.

As to whether Juici Patties and other fast food restaurants should be blamed for the increase in obesity rates among adolescents locally, the company said that it is not about casting aspersions, rather, it is about making a positive difference in the lives of people, the wider community, and the country.

“Juici is not a fast food chain, but a Jamaican restaurant bent on preserving our food culture, and we have deliberately offered healthier alternatives like our porridges, traditional fibre-rich breakfasts and meals, and baked patties — both in our stores and our school concessions,” the company said.

Further, the company first made famous for its patty-making said it had made healthy adjustments to the ingredients in meals offered, boasting that it is the only company that makes patties in Jamaica with a vegan crust.

“We are very pleased to say that a year ago we were able to replace animal fat with a healthier, plant-based ingredient. Our soy, ackee, vegetable and shrimp patties are the only patties in Jamaica with a vegan crust,” they said.

Moreso, the patty company said it will embark on promotions this year to remind persons that they currently offer healthier options and encourage children to make healthier choices.

“We recognise our ability to influence change. Our jerk chicken will also be reintroduced this year as an additional alternative to fried chicken,” the company said.

Additionally, regarding the Education Ministry's proposed nutritional policy, Juici said that it will comply, as it is an opportunity to partner to achieve a common goal.

Questions sent to Tastee Jamaica and Mother's Enterprises by the Sunday Observer were not answered up to press time yesterday.

Moreover, obesity surgeon Dr Alfred Dawes has challenged Juici Patties and others to state the percentage of their sales from school concessions which are from healthy foods versus unhealthy foods.

“Evidence shows that fast food restaurants which serve healthy meals see larger revenues generated from the sale of unhealthy foods. When presented with the option, people go for unhealthy foods from these companies because, let's face it, that's what they are known for,” he said.

He added: “What are the children buying? Plus, to say that you are providing healthy alternatives while serving foods rich in fats and carbohydrates — ackee, yam, banana — doesn't make any sense. Jamaicans need to accept that the foods we've been taught to believe are healthy still have a very high starch content and, sad to say, has a lot to do with the weight we gain. Plus, heating healthy oils changes its molecular structure. In other words, heating unsaturated fats turns it into saturated fats.”

Dr Dawes further explained that despite the results, Jamaicans are not among the highest consumers of fast foods per capita, yet the nation has shown growing obesity rates. So what's the cause?

“The ground provisions we love are high in carbohydrates. Many of my patients cut out rice and bread for these, thinking they are eating healthier, and see no changes in their weight — rather their conditions worsen,” he explained. “If we do not educate our children as to what a balanced diet and proper portion sizes are, be prepared to accept an increasing rate of childhood obesity every year.”

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