Fast food giants Burger King have become the latest victims of the Spanish government’s campaign for a fitter, healthier (happier?) nation.
Health minister Elena Salgado Méndez said in October the chain of restaurants, the world’s second largest, should withdraw an advertising campaign for its Whopper XXL burgers (all 971 calories of them!). Apparently, the ad broke a pact by members of the Spanish Federation of Hostelry and Restaurants (of which Burger King is a member) to not promote large portions of fizzy drinks and artery clogging foods.
Burger King has since silently launched its Triple Whopper in Spain. At 1,040 calories, this three stacked meat feast would make even Elvis wince.
And is Madrid about to force this chain of burger joints not to run adverts promoting this three-course meal between sesame seed bap? No camino! A spokesman for the ministry of health confirmed the government is going to do nothing.
You see, this pact is not legally binding. Think of it as more of a gentleman’s agreement between a couple of cads.
Enforced by law or not this pact seems to have gone un-noticed by the native young anyway as teenage waistlines have expanded to UK sized gut-busting proportions in recent years.
According to figures from Madrid, Spain now has the second highest child obesity rate in Europe with a whopping 14 per cent of its young seriously overweight.
So, how has this come to pass? The Spaniards apparently pride themselves on their healthy Mediterranean diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, Omega-3 laden fish, olive oil, wine in sensible proportions and little red meat.
Well, according to the Ministry of Agriculture the people of today are eating more TV dinners and less fruit and veg. In fact, in a recent survey almost 50 per cent of Spaniards claimed to eat no fresh greens every day, 30 per cent admitted to never eating fruit and 59 per cent owned up to cramming in salt-laden snack foods while in front of the box.
To combat this growing trend, the government has launched a new initiative to get parents to make sure their children start the day the right way. Despierta Desayuno (Wake Up Breakfast) is a two-million-euro drive to promote the benefits of eating a healthy breakfast.
The government claims 6 per cent of children rarely eat breakfast, 60 per cent have a breakfast of poor nutritional value, while 56 per cent of kids re-hydrate in the morning with a fizzy drink.
Over the past twelve months, the government has been on a McCarthyesque clean living mission as Spanish bad habits have been rooted out like Reds under the bed: cigarette taxes have been raised, there are smoking bans in bars and restaurants, fat awareness campaigns have been launched and there is now a black-points system for bad driving in place. Restaurateurs have even been asked to refrain from offering the customary free pacharán night-cap at the end of meals.
But how has this gone down with a public increasingly tired by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s nanny state style approach to government?
Not too well. People have lashed out at the socialist government for meddling and “trying to remote control” the inherent habits of a nation. According to a recent opinion poll, the conservative opposition Partido Popular are at their most – well – popular since they lost power in 2004.
There is a great swathe of the conservative, catholic (also upper case C) population against the government’s move to legalize same sex marriages, ease the divorce process, changes in the way religion is taught in schools. A reported one million people recently marched in Madrid against his proposals to negotiate with Basque separatist group Eta. The Government’s Recovery of Historical Memory civil war Bill has upset both left and right wings. The former says it does not do enough to criminalise General Franco’s dictatorship; the later that it interferes in national history and the unwritten Pact of Forgetting, which was agreed by all political parties during the transition to democracy.
“Spaniards have always shown great maturity and great common sense when it comes to voting,” said Señor Zapatero shortly after his general election victory. Will that said maturity and common sense return to haunt him when the nation goes to the polls in 2008?