Education to food in France

On Thursday’s class, one of the themes developed through the discussion was how food and especially calories make students feel guilty about what they eat. Being an exchange student from France, I would like to express to you my point of view on food and develop some of the French policies related to it.

In France, eating is seen as a social experience. Having lunch and dinner is the best part of the day because you get to meet people, speak with them and enjoy a good home-made meal. Even if France has a strong and long-lasted culture of food, obesity is still a plague in our society, but the answers giving to it are very different from the US.

First, in France, calories are not written in big letters on food products, and not written at all if restaurants or coffees. In America, I have discovered how to feel guilty about eating a single chocolate bar. France has a very different way to fight against unhealthy food. The government is putting stripes at the bottom of all the food-related ads (on TV or on papers) saying “You must eat 5 vegetables and fruits per day and do exercise”, and also it sponsorsing ads for healthy food that are broadcast between regular ads, such as this one:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x8baz1_manger-bouger_news.

 Moreover, the European Union has taken in 2009 a charter asking all the member-countries to put filter on ads for children and teenagers, especially junk food ad to fight against obesity. I don’t claim that one country is dealing in a better way with the topic of obesity and health, but I believe that education has a lot to do with it.

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One Response to Education to food in France

  1. giuliai says:

    Being Italian I see myself in a lot of what you said, particularly in the idea of eating as a social moment. In Italy food is seen as something that brings people together and is even considered as a great topic of conversation (I honestly recall having entire conversations about food with other Italians and I swear some of these weren’t just whining about missing Italian food while living abroad).

    I noticed too that there is a completely different attitude towards food in the US and I was taken aback especially by the importance given to calories. Growing up, I have always been taught that what matters the most is having regular meals and trying to balance the import of proteins, carbs, iron, vitamins, fats, and so on. So I usually find myself thinking about my meals and about what I am going to eat in terms of variety, not in terms of calories (I am not saying that I never eat junk food or that I have the healthiest eating habits, just that the general principles I have been taught to use are different). Also, we don’t usually find in grocery stores or supermarkets so many “low fat”, “nonfat”, and “light” versions of the same products and, even when we do have them, we don’t pay so much attention to them. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone actually drink a diet coke in Italy and I am pretty sure that many restaurants don’t really have diet sodas options.

    Another great difference I noticed is about the importance given to the quality and the origin of the products. In Italy food is deeply connected to culture and tradition and each region prides itself over specific products. That’s why a series of official certifications (DOP, IPG…) have been created in order to protect the authenticity of these products and assure customers that they are buying the “real thing”. So I think that, in general, we try to be more careful about what we eat and buy and where it comes from. “Slow food” (http://www.slowfood.com/), an international organization founded in Italy to fight the spreading of the fast food philosophy, the negative effects of globalization on food production and its consequences on the environment, has as its main principle the idea of food as “good, clean, and fair”.

    I believe that, besides the food education aspect, an important role is played by the regulations that the European Union has enforced in order to protect consumers (http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/foodlaw/index_en.htm ; http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/aboutefsa/efsawho.htm). Just to make a couple of examples, the EU has made it illegal to sell meat coming from animals treated with growth hormones and has established a rigid framework regulating genetically modified (GM) food and feed.

    I really don’t want to be dismissive of all the problems related to food and obesity existing in Europe, imply that all Europeans have great eating habits or make generalizations. I just found all the differences very striking and wanted to give some additional insights into how different countries deal with food and food related issues.

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