The European Union should “reduce accessibility to unhealthy food” using measures such as reformulation, taxation and curbs on marketing and advertising, EU commissioner for health and food safety Vytenis Andriukaitis has said.
Andriukaitis told a meeting of dental health professionals in Lithuania the EU should “make greater and more rapid progress to make the healthy food choice the easy food choice”.
“The broad aim is to create conditions that make healthy food easily available and affordable to all – so that people can reduce their intake of salt, fat and sugars – which can help to prevent diseases including tooth decay,” Andriukaitis said.
The EU is supporting “food reformulation to encourage reductions of sugar, salt and fats in processed foods”, Andriukaitis said.
But the commissioner said reformulation “must go hand in hand with responsible marketing of food products that are high in salt, saturated fat and sugar… and it is essential that we are more ambitious and effectively deliver further reductions in children’s exposure to the marketing of unhealthy foods”.
Andriukaitis noted that some EU member states had taken action “to reduce access to unhealthy food by adopting measures such as sugar taxes on certain drinks”, but added: “For me it is clear that if we want to curb the growing trend of overweight and obesity in children we have to change current trends in the market using protection, prevention and promotion instruments.”
Andriukaitis said “early stage education, awareness-raising and increasing physical activity” was also needed to combat obesity in children.
“Currently, more than one in three European schoolchildren are overweight or obese putting them at greater risk of type two diabetes or cardiovascular diseases later in life,” Andriukaitis said.
Last year, Europe’s food manufacturers backed the voluntary Roadmap for Action on Food Product Improvement initiative, drawn up by the Netherlands, to make products healthier.