EU to vote on widespread obesity action plan

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Health claims, Nutrition, Obesity, European parliament, European food safety authority

The European Parliament is next month set to vote on a report that
calls obesity a "European epidemic" and proposes that all countries
implement certain measures to combat the growing condition.

The own-initiative report by Belgian Liberal MEP Frdrique Ries calls for better information and more education about food, as well as healthy school dinners and more exercise.

According to the latest estimates, Europeans are getting increasingly overweight. Across the EU, 14 million children are thought to be overweight and a further three million classed as obese. In some states, already half of the adult population is overweight and between 20 to 30 percent is obese.

And these figures are growing rapidly. For example, the number of overweight children in the EU is thought to be increasing by 4000,000 a year.

The Parliamentary report, entitled "Promoting healthy diets and physical activity"​, recommends that all countries take certain steps to combat the epidemic. These include recognizing obesity officially as a chronic disease to prevent discrimination, and informing people from an early age about the effects of a poor diet. In addition, the report recommends that funding is provided to enable schools to offer healthy meals instead of fatty foods, as well as ensuring that schools have proper sports facilities.

It also calls on the European Commission to push for rules to end the promotion of foods high in fat, salt and sugar to children.

Last May, Parliament endorsed a report by the Italian MEP Adriana Poli Bortone, which aimed to tighten up nutritional and health claims made on foods.

According to the report, studies have shown that consumers tend to rely more on labels such as reduces cholesterol, low fat, rich in calcium, high fibre, fat free, light than the nutritional analysis tables on the packs.

The regulation aims to prevent the use of health claims to promote foods with high quantities of sugar, salt or fat, with the future seeing all claims having to backed up by scientific claims.

A compromise between the Parliament and the Council of Ministers means a regulation on improving consumer protection will be introduced this year. All new health claims on food will need to be registered with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

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