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Half of europe fat { January 2006 }

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Half of Europe fat but sees no health threat: report
Tue Feb 28, 2006 1:16 PM ET

By Darren Ennis

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Half of Europeans are obese or overweight, but citizens do not see obesity as a major health threat, a food industry report said on Tuesday.

According to the report, commissioned by Kraft, the world's second-largest food and beverage company, Europeans view obesity as a problem that affects others, but not themselves.

Of 15 health concerns listed in the report, obesity and being overweight ranked fifth and ninth respectively. Cancer and heart disease topped the poll.

The report, 'Understanding the Health Gap', was carried out in partnership with the market research company GfK NOP.

Despite growing child obesity rates, the problem is not a top concern for European mothers. From a list of 14 health concerns regarding their children, 'being overweight' and 'obesity' ranked equally in sixth place.

On Tuesday, a report by Britain's National Audit Office and others said the government could miss a target to halt the rise of obesity in children by 2010.

Britain has the highest levels of self-reported obese or overweight people in Europe and obesity costs the British taxpayer 1 billion pounds ($1.75 billion) per year. In 2003, 13.7 percent of youngsters were obese.

These latest reports are sure to be of concern to the European Commission, the European Union's executive arm, which will mark the first anniversary of its European platform on diet, nutrition and physical activity next month.

In a bid to cut obesity in the 25-member bloc, the Commission has consulted politicians, industry groups and NGOs.

The European report showed that 73 percent of those surveyed had stated they did not get enough exercise, while less than 50 percent felt their health was 'excellent' or 'very good'.

Around three quarters of those polled supported labeling products to indicate which ones were better for people and limiting food and beverage marketing aimed at children.

"Industry has already made progress such as improving labeling and restrictions in the area of children's products," said Lance Friedmann, Kraft's Senior Vice President, Global Health & Wellness.

"The research implications go beyond what the food industry can alone accomplish," he added, referring to measures that could be taken by other areas of society.

Other things that could help the problem could be for schools to offer nutritious choices in vending machines, a move backed by 77 percent of those questioned.

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