Governments, consumer organizations and those responsible for public health in the European Union claim that subsidizing the supply of fruits and vegetables in school canteens should be done and prohibiting selling soft drinks and industrial pastries in schools to prevent childhood obesity.
It is clear from the results of public consultation on healthy diet that launched the Commission in December 2005 following the alarming figures on obesity increase in Europe. 27% of men and 38% of women in the EU are considered obese.
Around 14 million children are overweight and more than three million are obese, a figure that increases by 400,000 a year. The diseases associated with excess weight represent 7% of health spending in the EU.
"The prevalence of obesity is growing rapidly in Europe and we have evidence that this is causing an increase in diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease," stressed the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Markos Kyprianou. The Community Executive, after considering "carefully" the results of the consultation, decided on the strategy to follow, looking for "the right balance between voluntary agreements and legislative measures".
Priority to children and young people
Most of the responses indicate that is necessary to give priority to children and youth, it is in this sector of the population where obesity is increasing rapidly. It suggests that it is necessary to increase the nutritional value of school meals, by subsidizing the supply of fruits and vegetables and milk. Also, call for banning the sale of soft drinks and industrial pastries in schools.
In parallel, we should improve the training of personnel working in the kitchens of schools, establishing specific rules on school meals and carrying them out. It also bid to launch food for education programs for children and parents, and notes the importance of increasing physical activity in schools and facilitating to reach school on foot or by bicycle.
One of the most controversial of the points relates to the information that industry must give to consumers. While companies are trying to establish self-labeling in as the best way to provide clear evidence, consistent and scientifically sound, consumers believe it is not enough to stem the advertising for foods rich in calories but poor nutrient.
To help all consumers to choose healthy foods, contributors to the consultation say they have to encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables, reduce fat, promote a balanced diet increasing the consumption of cereals or products rich in fiber, limiting sugar and sodas, reducing salt and reducing portion sizes.
The consultation focuses on a specific work centers. It is recommended to extend the availability of healthy foods in canteens or vending machines, reducing the supply of products with high energy content, to promote exercise in the workplace or nearby, and promote cycling and walking between home and headquarters of the company.