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WHO decries ‘deadly’ promotion of cheap, convenient food

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By Caroline Scott-Thomas+

26-Feb-2014
Last updated on 26-Feb-2014 at 11:42 GMT

The WHO says the food industry and urban planners can make a difference to European childhood obesity rates
The WHO says the food industry and urban planners can make a difference to European childhood obesity rates

Being overweight risks becoming the norm in Europe, says a new report from the World Health Organisation (WHO), which blames widespread promotion of unhealthy foods and inactivity.

The WHO Regional Office for Europe report found that up to a third of European 11-year-olds are now overweight, with the highest prevalence in Greece (33%), Portugal (32%), Ireland (30%) and Spain (30%).

It recommends legislation to help curb consumption of unhealthy foods and provide informative labelling, as well as nutrient profiling and regulated marketing of food products, “requiring the food industry to take responsibility”.

“Our perception of what is normal has shifted,” said WHO regional director for Europe Zsuzsanna Jakab. “Being overweight is now more common than unusual. We must not let another generation grow up with obesity as the new norm. Physical inactivity – coupled with a culture that promotes cheap, convenient foods high in fats, salt and sugars – is deadly.”

Successful strategies

However, some countries have managed to contain rates of overweight and obesity. The lowest prevalence of overweight among Europe 11-year-olds was in the Netherlands and Switzerland, at 13% and 11% respectively.

According to the report, France and some Scandinavian countries have kept obesity rates stable. The WHO says these countries have promoted fruit and vegetables in schools, taxed unhealthy foods to reduce intake, controlled advertising and promoted physical activity, particularly among children. All of these actions are in line with the WHO’s Health 2020 public policy framework.

Physical activity

In addition, the WHO claims that physical inactivity is a part of the problem, with more than 30% of children aged 15 and over getting too little exercise in 23 out of 36 European countries.

“We need to create environments where physical activity is encouraged and the healthy food choice is the default choice, regardless of social group,” said programme manager, nutrition, physical activity and obesity at the Regional Office, Joao Breda. “Physical activity and healthy food choices should be taken very seriously in all environments – schools, hospitals, cities, towns and workplaces. As well as the food industry, the urban planning sector can make a difference.”

3 comments (Comments are now closed)

supplier push vs consumer pull

There are many companies out there willing and able to provide nutritious, low calorie foods. But retailers can't afford to stock them if they don't sell. Consumers blame the food industry but they have to do their part too. In a world where the loss of twinkies was a major news story, there is much work to do to increase consumer demand for healthier options. We need strategies to increase public awareness of nutrition and buy in for making changes to the food supply.

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Posted by Susan
04 March 2014 | 19h55

INDUSTRY IS PART OF THE PROBLEM

The food industry has hurt consumers with their "have your cake and eat it too" attitude. By falsely claiming that non nutritional sweeteners are good for you and a better choice than sugar which calories can be walked off. Fake products like "NON FAT HALF AND HALF" - which is loaded with sugars & chemicals - lacking in vitamins and minerals (which would be in regular half and half). Instead of educating consumer to use only half the amount of real half n half they have given the impression that you don't have to limit consumption of these "special" products. And "No Fat Half and Half" will be close to the price of true half n half so the consumer will think it's a value added product - it's not! Fake foods have confused consumers!

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Posted by D.A. Hartig
27 February 2014 | 16h36

Who will bell the cat

In my view all of us aware about the issues related to obesity.We also know the causes and causes behind causes an the solutions.Parents go by demand and not need of the children who are influenced by ads and peer pressure.Commercial intereset of food industry,with political patronage and tutored research findings are also responsible for unhealthy food habbits.
Increasing use of remotes ,T V, Computers, mobile phones and automation,video games,watching games on TV rather than playing is order of the day.If allof us contribute our bit in all situations starting with our own families which is the basic unit of society things, things can improve.Think globally act locally.

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Posted by Dr avtar padda
27 February 2014 | 05h25

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