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IP/06/1530

Brussels, 9th November 2006

Fighting obesity: Commissioner Kyprianou “names and praises” companies for concrete commitments

Today in Brussels European Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou publicly “named and praised” several CEOs of major food, drink and retail industries for their commitments to tackling obesity made in the framework of the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. The Platform gathers stakeholders to agree voluntary measures to combat overweight and promote physical activity. They have so far presented 146 commitments overall. The companies “named and praised” are: 9 soft drinks companies in UNESDA, including Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, who have committed not to advertise soft drinks to children under 12; McDonald’s for their commitment to provide nutritional information on packaging throughout Europe; Unilever for their commitment to reformulate products; and Kraft for their commitment not to market certain products directly to children unless they meet a certain nutritional profile. Today the Commission also released the latest Eurobarometer on Health, Food and Nutrition (see IP/06/1531).

European Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said: “These commitments are good examples of concrete and verifiable action undertaken by industry to tackle obesity and overweight. The EU Platform is producing results. I would therefore like to congratulate the companies that made these commitments, encourage them to build on their good work, and invite others to do the same – and more. It’s only by working together that we can hope to halt and begin to reverse the growing obesity epidemic in Europe.”

The commitments ‘named and praised’ by Commissioner Kyprianou were presented by the European CEOs of the companies concerned:

  • Dominique Reiniche, President, European Union Group, The Coca-Cola Company and President of the Union of European Beverages Associations (UNESDA) and Zein Abdalla, CEO of PepsiCo Europe, presented the commitments of the 9 soft drinks companies in UNESDA[1] who have committed not to advertise soft drinks to children under 12 and have set up a system of independent consultants to monitor the implementation of this commitment;
  • Denis Hennequin, President of McDonald’s Europe, outlined McDonald’s commitment to provide nutritional information on packaging throughout Europe;
  • Kees Van der Graaf, President Europe of Unilever, explained Unilever’s commitment to reformulate products; and
  • Marc Firestone, Executive Vice President Corporate and Legal Affairs of Kraft Foods, presented Kraft’s commitment not to market certain products directly to children unless they meet a certain nutritional profile.

Commissioner Kyprianou welcomed the commitments as good examples of the progress of the Platform. He emphasised that a key element of building the credibility of the Platform, and one of the reasons that these commitments were considered good examples, is that their implementation is monitored in a transparent, accountable and participative way.

The Commissioner also set out his thoughts on work in progress in the area of nutrition and healthy diets ahead of the EU-WHO Conference in Istanbul (15-17 November 2006). One core output of the conference is expected to be the adoption of a European Charter on counteracting obesity. The next step for the Commission is a possible Communication on Nutrition and Healthy Diets in 2007.

Obesity in Europe

The rising prevalence of obesity across the EU is a major public health concern. Obesity causes a range of chronic diseases including diabetes, cancers and heart disease. Unhealthy diets and lack of physical activity are a leading cause of avoidable illness and premature death in Europe. Figures prepared for the World Health Organisation (WHO) by the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) show that one in five children in Europe is overweight with an additional 400,000 children becoming overweight each year[2].

EU Platform for action on diet, physical activity and health

The EU Platform for action on diet, physical activity and health has brought together key players from industry, NGOs, doctors’ associations and consumer groups to enter into binding but voluntary commitments as part of an effort to halt and reverse obesity trends.

Since its launch in 2005 a total of 146 commitments for new actions to fight obesity have been made and are being implemented by Platform members. They range from the promotion of healthy lifestyles to the provision of greater nutritional information and the restriction of advertising to young children.
For more information on EU policy on nutrition and obesity:

http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_determinants/life_style/nutrition/nutrition_en.htm
For more information on the EU Platform for action on diet, physical activity and health please visit:

http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_determinants/life_style/nutrition/platform/platform_en.htm
For more information on the Istanbul conference on obesity please visit:

http://www.euro.who.int/obesity/conference2006


[1] C&C (Ireland); The Coca-Cola Company; Coca-Cola Enterprises; The Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company; Gerber Foods Holdings Ltd; GlaxoSmithKline; Orangina Group (formerly Cadbury Schweppes European Beverages); Pepsi Beverages Europe and Unilever.

[2] Obesity in Europe – 3 International Obesity TaskForce March 2005


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