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April 28, 2008

FRANCE: Legislators look to tackle child obesity

The French government has signalled its intention to tackle rising childhood obesity rates, announcing a slew of initiatives last week.

The French government has signalled its intention to tackle rising childhood obesity rates, announcing a slew of initiatives late last week.

Poor diets are perceived as a growing problem in France; young people under 20 are eating four times less fresh produce than their grandparents. Government research has also shown that 30% of people aged over 15 are overweight and 12% are obese.

Addressing a meeting organised by the agricultural ministry in Paris, French health minister Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin said one in ten young people do not eat properly, 14% are overweight and 5% are obese.

To help reduce those statistics, from September, 1,000 French schools will receive regular fruit handouts, she said.

Additionally, a ministerial working group will launch a review of nutritional standards at school canteens in the autumn, while some 120 town halls have already agreed to implement a draft nutritional standards charter.

The meeting again heard concerns over the regulation of TV advertising for children’s foods in France.

Olivier Andrault, food and agriculture spokesman for the French consumer association UFC-Que Choisir?, observed that most of the products advertised were high in sugar and or fat. “This is inadmissible when there’s an obesity epidemic,” he said.

Founding member of food education association Les Sens du Gout, Danielle Pautrel, said that consumers, particularly children, have become alienated from food. “It takes a term at least, not just a couple of hours for children to change their ideas about food,” he said.

The one-day event was the first in a series organised to develop public debate on food issues ahead of the French EU presidency, which starts in July.

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