European Heart Report Calls To Control Advertising of Unhealthy Foods

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Due To the alarming rise in obesity levels and related coronary heart disease, the European Heart Network (EHN) is calling for “a more robust approach”, including policy initiatives such as taxes on fatty and sugary foods and controlling the advertising of unhealthy foods aimed at children.

Dr. Mike Rayner, director of the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group at the University of Oxford, says at a conference, part of the EuroHeart II project, in Brussels on November 23rd that the food industry is not measuring up and the European government needs to step in to tackle to problem.

“This is a challenge which governments must face in the public interest”, said Dr. Rayner.

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The dramatic increase in the prevalence of overweight people in the northern regions of Europe, including Scotland, Ireland and some Eastern European countries, is increasing the risk of related diseases such as cardiovascular disease (CVD) and Type 2 diabetes. The report notes that formerly healthful parts of Europe, such as the Mediterranean countries of Spain and Italy, more are abandoning the “traditional” diets and getting less physical activity. These regions also show a rise in obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, even among children.

The report entitled “Diet, Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Europe” was presented to Paola Testori Coggi, Director General for Health and Consumers of the European Commission. It is the result of 2 years of collaborative research involving a large number of European universities and experts.

Some of the new evidenced-based policy actions proposed include:
• Reformulation of food products to reduce the salt, saturated fat, and added sugar content of foods and portion size
• Legislation to eliminate industrially produced trans fatty acids
• Clear labeling about the nutritional quality of foods and ban on health claims with no public health relevance
• Ensuring availability of fresh drinking water
• Controlling advertising of unhealthy foods aimed at children
• Encouraging and facilitating healthy eating and active living in schools, pre-school facilities and the workplace.
• Promotion of breastfeeding and restricting the inappropriate marketing of breastmilk substitutes
• Economic tools (taxes and subsidies) and pricing strategies to make healthier foods more affordable and appealing, and to make less healthy foods more expensive
• Use of the Common Agricultural Policy to promote a healthy diet across Europe
• Oblige restaurant chains to give information to enable people to make healthier choices when they eat out

“We are sitting on a ticking time bomb” warns Prof. Philip James, President of the International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO), who warns about the consequences of the current lack of meaningful progress. Current figures find that the cost of CVD in the European Union is estimated at 192 billion Euros – more than the entire EU budget. About 12,000 Europeans die every day due to heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases.

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