France: Food at Work

Rising levels of obesity in France and other Western countries, means a less healthy, less productive workforce. But at the Peugeot-Citroen factory in Rennes, France, downsizing the workforce has taken on a very different and healthier meaning. ILO TV explains.

Date issued: 23 March 2006 | Size/duration: 00:02:05 (3.5MB)
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Nat sound: “Comment va le chef?” 

France’s love affair with food is part of the national culture. But French cuisine can be high in fat and cholesterol. Combined with today’s less active lifestyles, the country has seen a sharp rise in obesity.

At the Peugeot Citroen car plant in Rennes, France, half the assembly line workers were overweight.

So the factory introduced a nutrition programme called Santal, run by French food catering giant Sodexho. A dietician met with 700 of Peugeot’s staff, including Pascal, an assembly line worker.

Pascal Guillou, Quality Control, Assembly line, PSA Peugeot Citroen

I was having digestive problems, I wasn’t feeling well and I knew I had to lose weight. But I needed help. That’s why I decided to follow the programme here. I don’t think I would have succeeded on my own.

Poor diet on the job cost countries up to 20 per cent in loss productivity worldwide according to a recent report from the ILO.

William Salter, Senior Advisor, Conditions Work and Employment Programme, ILO

I think attention to better nutrition on the part of employers is something which is growing but from a very low base. It’s something which until relatively recently few employers were paying attention to and we see a big change in that.

Pascal sees the dietician once or twice a month and so far has lost 15 kilos. To his surprise, he’s also rediscovered his taste buds.

Dr. Patrick Gilbert, Chief Doctor, Health Department, PSA Peugeot Citroen

We aren’t here to impose and tell people what to eat, that’s up to the individual. We simply want to remind people of basic nutritional rules which they have a tendency to forget.

Posters in the canteens, vending machines and mobile snackbars with healthy alternatives raise awareness of good nutrition. Healthy meals are subsidised to be priced the same as other more traditional food on offer.

In the long-term, Peugeot Citroen hope productivity will go up as a healthier staff is less likely to call in sick.

Nat sound: “Bon appétit