Obesity is a societal problem

Written by Daciana Octavia Sârbu on 18 May 2017 in Opinion
Opinion

The EU’s approach to food advertising to children must change if it is to e­ffectively tackle the obesity epidemic, says Daciana Octavia Sârbu.

Daciana Octavia Sârbu | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual


Obesity is a common risk factor behind much of the chronic disease burden in Europe. The causes and impacts of this condition are diverse and complex, and the relative contribution of environmental, genetic, behavioural and other factors can be discussed at length.

But one thing is clear: the consequences are felt far and wide, by individuals, families, employers, health services and governments. In short, this is a societal problem.

Poor access to healthcare and education exacerbates social inequalities and contributes to the so-called obesogenic environment.


RELATED CONTENT


Meanwhile, technological innovation has made access to broadcast media and audiovisual communications more widespread than ever before. The promotional messages carried by this increasingly diverse and far-reaching digital media have a huge impact on consumer behaviour, and the rules which govern advertising - across all platforms - are therefore critical.

A key part of the battle against obesity - the promotion of junk food to children - is being lost to the false promise of self-regulation. The inherent di­fficulties of asking an industry to deliberately reduce the promotion of its own products are clear.

It is hardly surprising that the rules agreed under the ‘EU pledge’ - the flagship self-regulatory scheme lauded by large food companies and, thus far, the European Commission - were exposed for having weak definitions of key terms like ‘child audience’. This has allowed the large-scale advertising of unhealthy foods to children to continue, and yet still be considered compatible with the rules.

This approach must change, and over the next few weeks the European Parliament has a chance to do just that. The upcoming votes on the audiovisual media services directive, first in the culture committee and then in plenary, will help decide EU legislation and policy towards advertising to children in both traditional broadcast media and online content.

This is our chance to re-orientate the rules in favour of preventative healthcare, and to discourage unhealthy eating behaviours in childhood before they become entrenched habits for life.

As many doctors and health organisations have been arguing for years, a vote for proper regulation of food and drink advertising, especially to children, is a vote for better public health and for a future generation of healthier adults less afflicted by chronic disease.

About the author

Daciana Octavia Sârbu (S&D, RO) is a Vice-Chair of Parliament’s environment, public health and food safety committee

Tags

Interested in this content?

Sign up to our free daily email bulletins.

 

Share this page

Tags

Categories

Related Articles

Tackling obesity is a political ambition
18 May 2017

Obesity is a major public health concern and action must be taken at EU and national level, writes Michèle Rivasi.

Alcohol labelling issue is not as simple as it seems
16 May 2017

Alcohol labelling is not as simple as it seems and health campaigners should be wary of unintended consequences, writes Christopher Snowdon.

Alcohol labelling should be about what's best for consumers - not industry
16 May 2017

When it comes to labelling, there is no reason to treat alcohol differently from other drinks, argues Glenis Willmott.

Related Partner Content

Thought Leader: Juan Jover: Early intervention
31 March 2014

Early intervention is a cost-effective solution to reducing the burden of musculoskeletal disorders, writes Juan Jover.

PM+: Low income linked to childhood obesity
6 February 2015

Poorly educated are struggling to sustain healthy lifestyles, argues Jean-Michel Borys.

PM+: Right to water and sanitation still an 'unrealised dream'
25 March 2015

Ahead of World water day 2015, Jack Moss argues that the EU's strong track record on water management is key to achieving even better results.