European Parliament - Kostas Chrysogonos’s Question & Answer: Alarming figures on obesity

17 June 2016 - Kostas Chrysogonos – [E-004932-16] - Subject: Alarming figures on obesity:

The OECD's 2015 report Health at a Glance contains alarming figures about the percentage of citizens and especially children who are facing obesity. According to this report, obesity is one of the greatest health challenges of the 21st century, since, especially in Europe, it is three times as common as in the 1980s, and by 2030 it is expected to affect up to one in two Europeans[1]. Obesity is also considered responsible for the spread of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension etc. Of even greater concern, however, is the fact that these figures are more pronounced among children, since in Greece already about one in two boys between 10 to 12 years of age is overweight, followed by the UK which has a figure of 35%[2].

In view of the above, will the Commission say:

1. Does it monitor World Health Organisation surveys on obesity?

2. What steps will it take to curb the growth of this phenomenon?

3. The OECD report proposes an increase in the price of types of food that are considered sources of fat and sugar. Does it agree with this strategy?

Answer given by Mr Andriukaitis on behalf of the Commission (10 August 2016):

« 1. The Commission, under the framework of the Health Programme[3], both follows and supports the World Health Organisation (WHO) obesity-related databases Nutrition, Obesity and Physical Activity and Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative[4]. The Commission, the Member States and the WHO are also collaborating to monitor the action plan on Childhood Obesity (APCO).

2. The Commission supports Member States' action to promote healthy diets in the framework of the comprehensive Strategy on Nutrition, Overweight, and Obesity-related health issues[5], the Health Programme[6] and through the High Level Group on Nutrition and Physical Activity[7] and the EU platform for action on diet, physical activity and health[8].
Initiatives are ongoing, such as the implementation of the APCO, the Joint Action on Nutrition and Physical Activity[9] and the EU Framework for national action on selected nutrients[10].

In addition, by promoting responsible marketing to children[11], improving consumer information[12], and supporting the EU School Fruit, Vegetables and Milk Scheme[13], the Commission promotes healthier diets. Horizon 2020 offers opportunities for related research[14][15][16] and innovation is also supported through related pilot projects financed by the European Parliament[17].

3. Food prices can be influenced by taxation and/or subsidies and such measures are — within the limits of the Treaty — the responsibility of Member States. Evidence and the analysis of the WHO and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development show that such measures can be an effective and efficient tool to promote healthier consumption habits. Nevertheless, taxation should be considered as part of a wider range of tools and the complexity of its effects calls for careful consideration and design.».