Bars, vending machines and public buildings in Andalucía must provide drinking water free of charge

waterTHE regional government of Andalucía will make it obligatory by law for bars and cafés to serve water to customers free of charge.

And all food-and-drink vending machines must offer bottled water free.

As part of a drive to promote healthy living in the region and to combat obesity, the ‘free water’ rule comes with other regulations, such as schools being ordered to dedicate a minimum of five hours a week to physical activity like PE or dance.

Obesity currently affects 18.7% of Andalucía’s population of adults, and 22.5% of children, and is defined as not just being clinically overweight, but dangerously so with a body-mass index (BMI) way above the healthy range.

Bars and restaurants are now being pulled into the battle against the bulge by being required by legislation to offer healthy menu options in different portion sizes.

Schools are banned from allowing, selling or distributing food and drink which contain more than 200 calories per portion, which are high in saturated or ‘trans’ fats, salt and sugar, or which contain caffeine.

Lunches served in schools must be based as much as possible upon fresh produce – regional or local where feasible – and centre on the famous ‘Mediterranean diet’, which has long been considered a tradition in Spain but which is dying out fast with the rise of packaged and processed produce and fried dishes, including the cheap ‘everything with chips’ option often seen in eateries.

All school lunch menus must have options tailored to children’s dietary needs.

And all workplaces with 50 or more employees must set up an area for parking bicycles.

The ‘water rule’ will help with this by discouraging consumption of sugar-filled soft drinks, but is also a wider health issue since, in the extreme summer heat, being without liquids and not having the money to buy a drink can be fatal.

Schools, public centres of all descriptions and children’s leisure areas must offer free access to drinkable water.

Almost weekly in summer, reports hit the headlines in Spain – especially in Andalucía and other regions which experience stifling temperatures and strong sunlight – of walkers and manual workers dying from heatstroke.

In many of these cases, the victims were not carrying any water or other hydrating liquids with them.

Published Think Spain28 October 2016

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