Clearer food labelling and awareness campaigns can help prevent an obesity epidemic in Europe, Liberal Romanian MEP Magor Imre Csibi told EurActiv in an interview. However, he said taxing high-fat foods is not part of the solution.
A campaign to designate 16 May as European Obesity Day kicks off next month as part of efforts to raise awareness of Europe's slide towards becoming an overweight society. Csibi said there will be 15 million obese children and adolescents in Europe by 2010.
"The time has come to recognise and to respond to the voice of Europe's growing obese and overweight population by the establishment of a European Obesity Day on the 16 May each year, like in Belgium and Portugal," he told EurActiv.
Encouraging physical activity and providing detailed information on food products will help Europe to reverse this trend, according to Csibi. But he said banning advertising or imposing levies on high-energy food was not the answer.
"I do not think taxing high-fat foods is the best solution. I believe that a clear food label will encourage the food companies to reduce the level of the high fat in the products," Csibi said.
He said the EU is working on regulating food information for consumers. "I consider this initiative from the Commission a very important piece of legislation in preventing obesity. In the near future, the labelling of food products will provide consumers with clear and comprehensive information in order for them to choose the most convenient diet," he said.
However, he expressed disappointment that the first reading of the legislation had been postponed until the next parliamentary term.
Csibi also noted that some food companies have committed to being more responsible when advertising to young people, and expressed hope that more firms would follow their example.
"Food companies have to take responsibility for the significant influence they have on the behaviour of children. I refer especially to the advertising of the foodstuffs for children. Eleven European major food and beverage companies committed themselves to change the way they advertise to children," he said.