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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 January 2006, 13:13 GMT
Drink firms tackle child obesity
Young girl drinking water
The EU has decided to focus on the food and drink we put in our bodies
Global drinks firms, including Coca-Cola and Cadbury Schweppes, have unveiled a European initiative aimed at tackling the problem of obese children.

Unesda, the Union of European Beverages Associations, said it would limit youth advertising, control sales in schools and improve nutritional labels.

It also pledged a wide range of drinks, including sugar-free and low-calorie, in container sizes that limit intake.

The European Union has singled obesity out as a major threat to public health.

'Significant move'

Markos Kyprianou, the European Union (EU) commissioner for health and consumer affairs, last year set out plans to combat a rise in obesity and better educate consumers on how to live more healthy lives.

He called on drinks and food companies to liaise with Brussels, as well as health and consumer groups, and take steps towards finding a solution.

Stephen Kehoe, chair of the Unesda Task Force that will monitor the implementation of the plans and an executive at PepsiCo Europe, called the proposals a "significant move by the industry".

"This is the first time ever that the major beverage producers in Europe come together to jointly define their commitments related to responsible sales and marketing practices, especially to children and schools," he explained.

As part of the proposals, Unesda members have undertaken to not to put "any marketing communication in printed media, websites or during broadcast programmes specifically aimed at children under the age of 12".

It also will "avoid any direct appeal to children under the age of 12 to persuade parents or other adults to buy beverages for them".

Learning a lesson?

Direct commercial activity will halt completely in primary schools "unless otherwise requested by school authorities", while in secondary schools "a full range of beverages will be made available in appropriate container sizes, allowing for portion control" only after consultation with parents and educators.

Vending machines will not be branded and will promote healthy and active lifestyles, as well as balanced diet.

Nutrition labels on cans and bottles will be improved to let consumers know what they are drinking and help them control calorie intake.

One drinks company representative in the UK told the BBC that the main driving force behind the changes were the consumers themselves, many of whom were demanding healthier options.

As a result, the number of calories being drunk by consumers in the UK has already dropped, he explained.



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