February 28, 2006

Half of Europe fat but sees no health threat: report

By Darren Ennis

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Half of Europeans are obese or
overweight, but citizens do not see obesity as a major health
threat, a food industry report said on Tuesday.

According to the report, commissioned by Kraft, the world's
second-largest food and beverage company, Europeans view
obesity as a problem that affects others, but not themselves.

Of 15 health concerns listed in the report, obesity and
being overweight ranked fifth and ninth respectively. Cancer
and heart disease topped the poll.

The report, 'Understanding the Health Gap', was carried out
in partnership with the market research company GfK NOP.

Despite growing child obesity rates, the problem is not a
top concern for European mothers. From a list of 14 health
concerns regarding their children, 'being overweight' and
'obesity' ranked equally in sixth place.

On Tuesday, a report by Britain's National Audit Office and
others said the government could miss a target to halt the rise
of obesity in children by 2010.

Britain has the highest levels of self-reported obese or
overweight people in Europe and obesity costs the British
taxpayer 1 billion pounds ($1.75 billion) per year. In 2003,
13.7 percent of youngsters were obese.

These latest reports are sure to be of concern to the
European Commission, the European Union's executive arm, which
will mark the first anniversary of its European platform on
diet, nutrition and physical activity next month.

In a bid to cut obesity in the 25-member bloc, the
Commission has consulted politicians, industry groups and NGOs.

The European report showed that 73 percent of those
surveyed had stated they did not get enough exercise, while
less than 50 percent felt their health was 'excellent' or 'very

Around three quarters of those polled supported labeling
products to indicate which ones were better for people and
limiting food and beverage marketing aimed at children.

"Industry has already made progress such as improving
labeling and restrictions in the area of children's products,"
said Lance Friedmann, Kraft's Senior Vice President, Global
Health & Wellness.

"The research implications go beyond what the food industry
can alone accomplish," he added, referring to measures that
could be taken by other areas of society.

Other things that could help the problem could be for
schools to offer nutritious choices in vending machines, a move
backed by 77 percent of those questioned.