December 8th, 2005

EU Demands Food Makers Curb Ads Targeting Children

By Duncan Hooper
Bloomberg

The European Union is demanding that makers of sugary and fatty foods restrict marketing aimed at children or face advertising bans.
``The rise in obesity is a Europe-wide problem which requires a coordinated Europe-wide approach,’’ EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said in a statement. ``Today’s report aims to stimulate discussion about effective initiatives to promote healthy diets and physical activity.’’

He wants European companies that make high-calorie foods with a low nutritional value, including Unilever and Cadbury Schweppes Plc, to follow the lead of U.S. candy maker Kraft Foods Inc., which in January promised to end its advertising of some products. A poor diet and lack of exercise kill more people than smoking, according to the commission report.

Kyprianou said Jan. 20 he’ll force companies into line if they fail to take action as he attacks unhealthy lifestyles that have left one in four EU children overweight. While the EU plans to examine ``the role which self-regulation in the food and advertising can play,’’ the report doesn’t specify what the bloc wants the companies to do to avert an advertising ban.

Greece is the EU’s fattest nation, according to the report, with 78.6 percent of males and 74.7 percent of females overweight or obese. Germany is next in line, with 75.4 percent of men and 58.9 percent of females weighing more than recommended by the World Health Organization.

Changing diets are contributing to a rise in obesity that adds 7 percent a year to health-care bills across the 25-nation EU. Consumers in Mediterranean countries in particular are shifting away from traditional meals containing fresh fruit and vegetables and eating more processed food such as pizzas. Italians consumed 7 percent less vegetables in 2004 than the previous year, Brussels-based industry group Freshfel says.

Francois Perroud, a spokesman for Nestle SA, the world’s biggest food maker, declined to comment earlier today before the report was released.

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