Health Minister Yaakov Litzman has called on the country to downsize its consumption of junk food in general and boycott McDonald’s.
Yaakov Litzman told an Israeli cardiologists’ conference that McDonald’s is “out.”
“I know they won’t like that I’m saying this, that large corporations won’t like it, but let me tell you a secret — I don’t have primaries,” quipped the United Torah Judaism minister. (UTJ’s Knesset slate and cabinet members are chosen by the party’s Council of Torah Sages.)
“There is no need to eat junk food, not in our country,” he said.
Litzman urged educating children not to eat junk food and sweets and stressed that the Health Ministry would focus on “prevention” medicine this year to curb disease.
Israeli cuisine is generally healthy with its traditional Mediterranean ingredients, but junk food is also popular.
Litzman’s comments, broadcast Tuesday evening on Channel 10, were unusual because he specifically named the burger chain.
Channel 10 said McDonald’s has made healthy changes to its menu in Israel and relayed a statement from the chain condemning Litzman’s remarks.
“It’s unfortunate that the health minister chose to express himself in such a populist, unscientific way, which may get him headlines but does not reflect what is happening in the chain,” the company said.
“McDonald’s Israel carried out a complete health revolution a decade ago that has been lauded in the medical community: lowering the amount of fat in unprocessed meat by half, from 18 percent to 9%, removing trans fats from French fries, cutting two-thirds of the saturated oils in fried products, lowering sugar and sodium levels in all products and publicizing the ingredients of every item sold in the chain — and it was the first Israeli chain to do so.
“If the Health Ministry were interested in nutritional science, it would realize that McDonald’s Israel, after the tremendous health revolution it initiated, is part of the solution, not the problem.”
Litzman on Wednesday said he was waging a battle against the entire phenomenon of junk food, and had cited McDonald’s because it is “the symbol” of such food.