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Fast food threatens Italian healthy eating and traditions

January 29, 1997

From Correspondent Jennifer Skiff


LECCE, Italy (CNN) -- The rush of modern life in Italy is changing everything from the workforce to diet, and that has health officials concerned.

The tradition of multple course meals and the overall healthy eating habits of Italians are being threatened by the modern convenience of fast food.

A generation ago, most Italian women worked in the home preparing meals for the rest of the family. That tradition is changing in many Italian households.

In the southern city of Lecce, Elsa Fava prepares a typical five course lunch for her family while her daughter, Olimpia Saracino, is at work.

Saracino, a school teacher, says she must work to help support the family.

"Now for my generation very little has changed because we have more or less followed the same traditions that we learned from our mothers. But for the next generation I think things will change because I hope they will be going out to work and won't have the time to do a lot of cooking, a lot of traditional cooking and they're going to speed meals up," Saracino said.

People who live in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea are known to have one of the healthiest diets in the world. Olive Oil

The Mediterranean diet is a healthy mix of pasta, beans, fruits and vegetables with meats and seafoods, all served in small portions. Although the diet is not low in fat, the principal fat being olive oil, it is linked to lower rates of heart disease.

But now a growing fast food trend has prompted government officials in Italy to kicked off a countrywide heath education campaign.

Although fast food restaurants have not yet made their way into many small towns and regions in Italy, they are easy to find in large cities.

The campaign is aimed at both children and adults and focuses on teaching Italians to stick with their own traditions instead of going with fast food trends.

"We bring into the schools but also to adult audiences, information for a proper diet, a proper nutrition, proper eating of a traditional nature. That is based on our commodities and based on the Mediterranean diet obviously," said Walter Luchetti, the Italian Minister of Agriculture .

In school, Italian children are being taught that their diet is one of the healthiest in the world.

Convincing young Italians that popular fast foods are not always the best foods for them is expected to be difficult. Especially when many food traditions take time, something people don't seem to have a lot of.

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