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Brussels, 11 May, 2006.

The EU and the US exchange Good Practices on Diet, Physical Activity and Health

What can the EU and the US learn from each other on tackling obesity? Can industry self-regulation work? These and other topics will be discussed today and tomorrow at an EU-US conference in Brussels hosted by the Commission and addressing diet, physical activity and health. The conference will bring together officials, the food and drinks industry, advertisers, NGOs and representatives of civil society from the EU and US to compare good practices and set the basis for future cooperation on topics such as advertising, labelling and consumer education. Keynote speakers include Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou, the Austrian Minister for Health and Women Maria Rauch-Kallat and the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.

Commissioner Kyprianou said: “Europe’s obesity crisis is every bit as severe as that of North America, with devastating public health and economic costs. A comprehensive strategy is needed to stem the rise in obesity in Europe, combining legislative and non-legislative initiatives. In parallel to the consultation launched by our Green Paper on Nutrition, our proposal on health claims and a review of food labelling legislation, the Commission is working with a wide range of players across the public, private and non-governmental sectors. The EU Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health is a good example of this. The Platform has so far delivered 96 commitments for concrete actions. The Commission will be closely monitoring the implementation and impact of these pledges over coming months, before deciding on the next steps. I am sure the vast range of European and American expertise gathering in Brussels today will help us to drive ahead this process and put the brakes on this accelerating epidemic.”

Deputy Secretary Alex Azar of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said: "For the first time in history many of our peoples are challenged by excess of food. We have too much food and too little exercise in our lives. The results of this –- obesity, and the host of chronic conditions to which it gives rise -- are as expensive as they are deadly. “Meetings such as this EU-U.S. conference on good practices for diet, physical activity and health give us the opportunity to share what practices and programs we have found work and do not work in our different cultures, to learn from one another, and to help encourage all our peoples to adopt healthy behaviors and make smart lifestyle choices."


The conference will aim to tackle four main issues and address several questions:

  • Public/private partnerships for action on diet, physical activity and health. The causes of obesity and the problems it can bring are so numerous and diverse that they require action on all fronts. Is it realistic to expect industry, NGOs, consumer groups and governments to work together?
  • Influencing young people’s lifestyles. To tackle growing obesity rates among children it is vital to have an impact on the environments and lifestyle choices of the very young. How prepared is industry to reduce or adapt its marketing messages aimed at children? How do we monitor the impact of initiatives in the long term?
  • Influencing consumer choices to promote better nutrition and physical activity. Many different approaches have been tried, including awareness-raising campaigns and improved labelling. What are the best evaluation tools to assess success? Can messages promoting healthy eating really compete with the onslaught of food and drink marketing?
  • Research: is more research needed into the causes of obesity, and the best way to combat it? To what extent are the main messages of healthy lifestyle promotion, such as “eat more fruit and vegetables”, “do more exercise”, getting through?

Expected outcomes

The conference also aims to pave the way for future EU-US joint work, and to provide ideas and concrete examples in areas such as:

  • Best practice on successful initiatives and on actions that have not worked as well as expected
  • Identification of data gaps
  • Identification of potential new partnerships
  • Ideas for new actions or commitments
  • Increased understanding of the benefits of future transatlantic cooperation
  • Regulation/self regulation joint actions


The EU-US Conference on Diet, Physical Activity and Health takes place in the Commission’s Charlemagne building. The closing session, with closing addresses by Commissioner Kyprianou and US Deputy Secretary for Health and Human Services Alex Azar, takes place on Friday 12 May at 12:15 and is open to the press.

As part of a wide range of initiatives to tackle obesity, including a Green Paper on Nutrition, proposed legislation on health and nutritional claims and a review of food labelling legislation, the Commission is working in partnership with the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, which was launched in March 2005. The Platform brings together 34 key players from the food industry and civil society to boost voluntary initiatives across the EU. The Platform has now released summaries of its 2005 baseline and 2006 commitments for action. These represent a first set of 96 pledges its members have made to tackle obesity across the EU, including information campaigns to promote healthy lifestyles, reducing amounts of sugar and salt in food, improving nutritional information on packages and pledging not to market directly to children. The Commission has welcomed these commitments as a significant first step and will evaluate how closely they are put into practice.
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