Two years and counting: food industry fights obesity

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food industry Nutrition

The European food industry is this week taking stock of two-years'
concerted effort to do its part in combating the rising tide of
obesity, with the publication of a report illustrating achievements
towards promoting healthy diets and lifestyles.

The first EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health was launched in March 2005, bringing together 34 key players from the food industry and civil society to boost voluntary initiatives across the EU. The baseline commitments for 2005 and 2006 included 96 pledges to tackle obesity in the bloc. CIAA, the voice of the European food and drink industry, yesterday published a report entitled Promoting healthy diets and lifestyles - Europe's food and drink industry in action​, which sets out achievements in nutrition, customer information, labelling, marketing and advertising, product reformulation, public-private partnership, and education. But aside from flagging its own progress, the industry has also seen validation in an independent form, since the recent Second Monitoring Progress Report compiled by Rand Europe noted that 146 of the 211 commitments made by platform members since November 2005 have been from industry. One of the most significant industry contributions, CIAA says, is its voluntary nutrition labelling scheme, which includes front-of-pack and back-of-pack nutrition labelling and is based on a uniform list of nutrients, nutrition information per serving and the introduction of Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) according to the nutritional needs of the average adult. When the GDA scheme was launched last July it had seven subscribers: Coca-Cola, Groupe Danone, Kellogg, Kraft Foods, Nestle, PepsiCo and Unilever. Since then Masterfoods, Campbell Soup Company and Cadbury Schwepps have joined in, "and we expect more of our members to follow suit in the near future,"​ said CIAA president Jean Martin. ​ Martin said the labelling scheme demonstrates "the important catalyst function of Europe's food and drink industry in combating obesity by translating public policy goals into concrete action".​ But he added that commitments and action are required by all members of the Platform, especially governments, who are responsible for promoting physical activity and education. According to the figures prepared by the International Obesity Taskforce, there are variations in prevalence of obesity (body mass index of BMI over 30) across Europe but there is a marked upwards curve. Population obesity rates range from 10 per cent to 27 per cent in men and up to 38 per cent in women. In the grand scheme, two years is not long enough to identify any clear impact of the food industry's action on waistlines. But Martin said: "All will not be delivered immediately, but as pivotal stakeholders we will ensure that all commitments are implemented in full and responsibly."

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