Kyprianou: ‘Industry can not only be criticised’

Health Commissioner Kyprianou acknowledges and applaudes some industry initiatives in the fight against obesity but says that if self-regulation does not work, legislative action will follow.

“Industry is often accused of not doing enough in the fight against obesity. However, a number of companies have actually taken some initiatives to do something, even if they eventually go against their own interests. This needs to be acknowledged,” said Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou in a ‘name and praise’ press conference on 9 November 2006. 

In this event, Kyprianou thanked 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 companies ‘praised’ range from soft drinks companies in UNESDA (Coca Cola) who have committed not to advertise soft drinks to children under 12, to McDonald’s for their commitment to provide nutritional information on packaging throughout Europe and retail industries for their commitment to reformulate products or to not to market certain products directly to children unless they meet a certain nutritional profile. 

“These commitments are good examples of concrete and verifiable action undertaken by industry to tackle obesity and overweight. We hope they encourage others to take the same kind of actions and that the current initiatives will be further expanded,” added Kyprianou emphasising that a key element of these initiatives is that their implementation is monitored in a transparent and accountable way. But “if self-regulation does not work, then we’ll have to take other, even legislative action”, he added.

Dominique Reiniche, President of the European Union Group of the Coca-Cola Company thanked Commissioner Kyprianou for his confidence in allowing the soft- drinks industry to voluntarily self-regulate. Referring to the concept of the EU Platform, she said that "this type of public-private partnership is a new way of working together and the right way to do it in the future".

Zein Abdalla, CEO of PepsiCo Europe, emphasised the importance of robust monitoring mechanisms to verify the progress in industry committments. "External auditors will monitor that we practice what we preach," he said.

Denis Hennequin, President of McDonald's Europe, outlined McDonald's commitment to provide nutritional information on packaging throughout Europe and said that it will "broaden customers view of what nutrition is all about". 

"We can only change consumers behavior with information and education," said Kees Van der Graaf, President Europe of Unilever. 

"Today’s event is a clear indication that the Platform is delivering results. Kellogg will continue to work with other stakeholders and drive industry initiatives such as a simplified voluntary nutritional labelling scheme based on Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs), in order to help consumers make healthier choices," said president of Kellogg Europe Tim Mobsby.

An EU Platform for action on diet, physical activity and health was launched in March 2005 and is one of several EU initiatives to promote healthier diets and more physical activity to combat obesity and chronic diseases.

The platform is described as a practical example of the Commission’s commitment to better and simpler regulation. It gathers stakeholders to agree voluntary measures to combat overweight and promote physical activity - "allowing for actions to be taken much faster than through legislation". 

See also Commission’s questions & answers

  • In 2006 the EU Platform has mainly focused on nutrition. In 2007 it will shift its focus towards physical activity.
  • A WHO European ministerial conference on Counteracting Obesity will take place on 15-17 November 2006.
  • A Commission Communication on the promotion of healthy diets and physical activity: a European dimension for the prevention of overweight, obesity and chronic diseases is expected to be published early 2007.

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