The EUs 28 member states outlined eight "key areas of action"

The EU's 28 member states outlined eight "key areas of action"

EU member states have drawn up an "action plan" they hope will halt the rise in the number of obese and overweight children by 2020.

Restricting the advertising of foods "high in fat, sugars and salt" to children and making "the healthy option the easy option" are among eight "key areas of action" outlined by the EU's 28 member states in a bid to tackle the issue.

Obesity has "more than tripled in many European countries" since the 1980s, leading to a "concomitant increase in rates of associated non-communicable disease", EU Action Plan on Childhood Obesity 2014-2020 read.

The plan, published last week, said obesity was a "complex" issue and insisted "several diverse contributory factors need to be addressed" to combat the problem.

However, eating habits were, the plan read, an "influential factor". It said: "Young people in the EU now consume more fast-food and sugar-sweetened beverages, eat outside the home more frequently and spend less time eating family meals. In addition, prepared and processed foods are more accessible than ever before and in larger portion sizes. All of these factors contribute to increasingly poor eating habits."

When describing the eight "areas of action", the member states sought to give some concrete policy suggestions, including "encouraging reformulation of less healthy food options" and "taking nutritional objectives into consideration when defining taxation, subsidies or social support policies".

Nevertheless, the member states said its actions were proposals and were designed to be flexible so countries could develop national policy.

"Some countries might have systems in place - e.g. regulation - which allow them to vary upon the actions suggested below. These actions are voluntary and should be taken forward by each of the member states according to their own circumstances and reported accordingly."

FoodDrinkEurope, the association representing food and drink manufacturers in Europe, said it supported the 2020 goal on childhood obesity.

"European food and drink manufacturers reaffirm their commitment to fight childhood obesity by means of ongoing and possibly new actions and initiatives targeted at children and parents through the established platforms for action at European and national level," FoodDrinkEurope said.

However, the association pointed to the "important role in promoting balanced diets and healthier lifestyles, thereby contributing to improving the public health of the European population from childhood to old age" through the 2005 EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, as well as national initiatives.

The plan could be read in full here.