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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 May 2007, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
EU asks industry to fight obesity
obese person
More than half of Europe's population is overweight
Europe's food and drink industry could face new regulations if it does not try harder to tackle obesity, the European Commission has warned.

Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said Europe needed healthier food and stronger advertising codes.

He urged industry to act voluntarily, but said a review in 2010 would decide whether new laws were needed.

The commission will make proposals later this year on labelling food, to help consumers make healthy choices.


"The figures are frightening. More than 50% of the adult population is overweight or obese, and more than 21 million children are overweight or obese," Mr Kyprianou said.

Malta - 26.6
Greece - 25.9
Finland - 25.8
Luxembourg - 25.7
Hungary - 25.6
Cyprus - 25.6
Lithuania - 25.5
Slovenia - 25.5
Denmark - 25.5
UK - 25.4
Body Mass Index figures (healthy = 18.5 to 25)

"Even more worrying, the rate of increase [among children] is more than 400,000 per year. Today's overweight children will be tomorrow's adults with all these chronic illnesses."

He said some progress had been made in reducing the level of fats and salt in food, but not enough.

The commission is also proposing programmes to promote consumption of fruit and vegetables, and a White Paper on sport.

Mr Kyprianou said children no longer entertained themselves through physical activity, so member states should ensure schools re-introduced "physical activity as entertainment, fun and games" for every child.

A high level group, including a representative from every member state, will be created to encourage the exchange of best practice.

'Easy way out'

European consumers' group BEUC had urged the commission to introduce binding regulation on advertising and nutritional labelling.

"It seems that the commission has taken the easy way out by adopting a voluntary approach, combined with a policy of wait-and-see," said BEUC director, Jim Murray.

The commission says poor diets and low levels of physical activity account for six of the seven leading risk factors for ill health in Europe.

The World Health Organization says the prevalence of obesity has more than trebled in many European countries since the 1980s.

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