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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Big business are 'committed to fight against obesity'

Experts at Abu Dhabi forum call on private sector to take responsibility for helping fight childhood obesity

Private sector knows it has a role to play in driving down the prevalence of obesity and diabetes, says representative. Getty Images
Private sector knows it has a role to play in driving down the prevalence of obesity and diabetes, says representative. Getty Images

The role played by big business in helping reduce the impact of global childhood obesity has been underlined at an Abu Dhabi forum.

Representatives from the private sector said they were committed to helping governments tackle the growing problem, and support a three-year plan set by a childhood obesity taskforce in Abu Dhabi to reduce the average weight of children.

Whilst advertising of fast food is already banned in television programmes aimed at children under 12, the rise of social media and on-demand viewing services has made it a difficult area to control.

“We all know obesity is on the rise and that associated non-communicable diseases will cost $30 trillion to treat over the next 20 years,” said Christine Greaves, Middle East representative of the International Food and Beverage Association, that includes McDonalds, Nestle, Kellogg’s, PepsiCo and Mars amongst others.

“We also know the private sector has a role to play in driving down the prevalence of obesity and diabetes.

“Since 2009, the IFBA has been committed to reformulate products to support improving diets, providing clear fact based nutritional information for consumers and extend responsible advertising towards children.

“Since 2014 we have reinforced our commitment to raise awareness on balanced diets and increased levels of physical activity.

“We want to have more local companies in the UAE commit to this cause.”

The IFBA aims to reduce sodium, sugar and saturated fats in its products and provide healthier options for consumers.

Companies associated with the IFBA also aim to replace trans fats with unsaturated fats and a variety of portion size packaging.

In 2009, the association made a pledge in the GCC to not advertise products to children under the age of 12 unless they meet a specific harmonized nutrition criterion.

It said companies were committed to not engage in food or beverage marketing to children in primary schools.

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The Department of Health, in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi Children's Obesity Task Force, which is composed of 12 government entities, has developed a comprehensive plan to reduce obesity.

It aims to increase physical activity in children by 15 per cent and reduce the average body mass index by 15 per cent by 2020.

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