Food manufacturers advertising their products in France from next February will be required to add a health message, such as “For your health, do regular physical exercise”. The requirement is part of the second phase in the French government’s long term scheme to promote healthier eating, the Programme National Nutrition Santé (PNNS).

There are four health messages, drafted by the health ministry, which will be used in rotation on all advertising, from supermarket leaflets, through to press advertising, radio and TV slots. Companies which choose not to incorporate this material can pay a tax equivalent to 1.5% of the advertisement’s cost.

Launching PNNS 2 in Paris, health minister Xavier Bertrand reminded his audience that one in six French children are overweight today, compared with one in 20 in 1980. “Nutrition has become a major factor in health,” he declared.

The PNNS 2 budget for 2007, at EUR47m (US$59.62m), has doubled from current level. The country’s annual healthcare bill for diabetes, heart and circulatory disorders, cancer and osteoporosis is around EUE5bn, of which the ministry estimates EUR800m is directly attributable to poor eating habits.

Next year’s educational campaign will see government trying to literally get French citizens moving: physical exercise will be encouraged, even walking or taking the stairs instead of lifts and escalators. The other PNNS messages are: “For your health, eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables”; “For your health, avoid eating too much fat, sugar and salt”; “For your health, avoid nibbling between meals.”