Thursday, December 9, 2010

Belgian Presidency High Level Conference on Health, Nutrition & Obesity

I spoke this morning to a packed hall at a Belgian Presidency High Level conference on health, nutrition and obesity, alongside Health Commissioner John Dalli.

I informed the conference of the workshop on obesity, which I co-chaired in the European Parliament in November as summarised here.
I also made a plea for action, not rhetoric and spoke about some of the relevant legislation in the European Parliament, including food labelling, pesticides regulation, maximum permitted levels of added sugar in fruit juices, regulation of advertising of junk food to children, and the EU's free fruit and veg in schools scheme, and of course spoke in favour of the traffic light labelling scheme, as we have pioneered in the UK.

I was strongly critical of the role of industry and the amount of resources poured into lobbying to avoid stronger regulation. We heard from Commissioner Dalli that the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, chaired by the Commission (bringing together industry and other civil society stakeholders), had reached a voluntary agreement to reduce salt intake across the EU's 27 Member States by 16% over 4 years.

While this is of course to be enthusiastically welcomed, it is many of these same companies who separately lobby against front of pack labelling, or traffic light labelling, too concerned for their profits.

Finally as discussed here
I told the conference that it was perverse that it is cheaper to purchase junk food than it is healthier foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables and that whilst this remained the case, we would all be swimming against the tide in our efforts.

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