UK food sector welcomes new health approach

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food industry Nutrition Obesity

The UK food industry has welcomed a new government campaign
designed to encourage healthy changes in lifestyle.

The industry has long argued that it is unrealistic to believe that the food industry alone holds the key to pressing issues such as obesity, and believes that education on the importance of a balanced diet is just as vital.

"The UK food and drink manufacturing industry applauds today's launch of the government's small change, big difference campaign,"​ said Gavin Neath, Food and Drink Federation (FDF) president.

"In recent years manufacturers have made great progress in reducing the fat, salt and sugar content of their products, but in the end the only enduring solution to the problems of poor diet is better education."

The Small change, big difference​ campaign is designed to encourage people to make minor changes in their lifestyles to give them a better chance of living longer, healthier lives.

The government believes that the notion that small changes are not only a step in the right direction but have proven benefit in themselves is new.

"There is now clear evidence that people should not be put off making a change, just because they can not see how they could manage the full five a day fruit and veg intake or participate in 30 minutes a day of extra exercise,"​ said the department of health in a statement.

This is supported by research from the Clinical Gerontology Unit of Cambridge University's School of Clinical Medicine at Addenbrookes Hospital.

The research has proven that just one extra piece of fruit or serving of vegetables a day can contribute to a longer life. In addition, moderate amounts of activity, such as walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift and getting off the bus a stop earlier can lengthen someones life.

The food industry has consistently argued that a multi-factor approach is needed in order to tackle issues relating to diet and health. The European food and drink industry's recently published response to the EC's Green Paper, entitled Promoting healthy diets and physical activity: towards a European strategy for the prevention of overweight, obesity and chronic diseases​ forcefully puts forward this point of view.

"Policies that focus solely on food and food marketing will not be effective in addressing all the different causes and factors related to overweight, obesity and chronic diseases,"​ said the CIAA (Confederation of the food and drink industries of the European Union).

"Ultimately, each consumer is responsible for ensuring that his or her own lifestyle is a healthy one. Parents have a similar responsibility for their children. These individual responsibilities cannot be removed."

Action is certainly needed. The Commission says that 14 million Europeans are obese or overweight, of which more than 3 million are children.

Obesity-related illnesses, which include heart disease and diabetes, account for up to 7 per cent of healthcare costs in the Union. In some Member States, over a quarter of the adult population is now obese.

"Consumers need to be encouraged with practical, positive messages to take the right steps towards a healthier lifestyle,"​ said Neath. "This will entail both eating sensibly and taking more physical exercise.

"Industry will play its part to get these messages across."

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