EU-US policymakers talk obesity

Related tags Nutrition

Europe and the US will hammer out the contentious issue of obesity
and the role food policy can play in getting to grips with this
major health problem at a Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) meeting in Brussels
today.

Together with European consumer organisations, Commissioner David Byrne - the force behind a raft of new food rules in the Europe - and Shaun Donnelly from the US bureau of economic and business affairs will discuss how the regulation of food, and the marketing there of, could help turn the rising tide of obesity.

But overshadowing the debate will be recent manoevres by the US government to stall a global strategy tabled by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to stem the rise in obesity.

Backed by a host of countries including Britain and France the strategy on diet and health from WHO advises a reduction in dietary sugars, salt and trans fats and also suggests that governments set taxation and subsidy policies to promote healthy eating habits.

Out on a limb the US ?lobbied heavily by an influential US food industry - said last week that the framework put too much of the burden for diet reform on states and not enough on individuals.

WHO waved through the US proposal, buying the Americans time to suggest changes to the WHO document drawn up last year by nutritional experts and member states.

With approximately 300 million people worldwide believed to be obese and 750 million overweight, the 'Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health?designed by nutritional experts and member states of the UN-backed body could be a new tool to tackle the problem. Critics of the US move argue that the document should not be compromised before it is presented to the 192-nation World Health Assembly in May for final approval.

But commenting last week in preparation for today's debate an upbeat David Bryne said : "The TACD is an important source of ideas both for EU and for US policymakers. Changing consumer behaviour is the key to rolling back this epidemic. Who better to debate the issue, then, than consumer organisation."

Evidence suggests that obesity significantly increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other life-threatening conditions.

Related topics Food safety and labeling

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