Britain considers obesity levy on fast food firms

June 17, 2004 in Nutrition Topics in the News

Britain considers obesity levy on fast food firms

Britain is considering imposing levies on fast food firms to fund sports facilities and combat obesity, the government said last week.

Governments and food firms have been criticized for failing to combat obesity in Britain and the United States, where as many as two-thirds of the population are considered overweight. In Britain, 47% of men and 33% of women are overweight and nearly a quarter of both sexes are obese.

A spokeswoman for the Food and Drink Federation, whose members include the world's largest confectioner Cadbury Schweppes and soft drinks giant Coca-Cola, said the government had yet to raise the issue of levies.

If the levies were imposed, funds would be used to build sports facilities around the country, the government spokesman said.

According to a May 27 parliamentary report, obesity in Britain has grown by almost 400% in the last 25 years and if allowed to continue would surpass smoking as the greatest cause of premature loss of life.

The report predicted increased levels of diabetes, cancer and heart diseases, and attacked the government for failing to formulate policies on obesity that linked food, transport, education, health and work.

Activists in the United States are also trying to hold the food industry to account for the population's expanding waistline. Consumer lobby groups argue that shrewd and costly marketing have influenced U.S. eating habits and contributed to a rising rate of obesity.

In a sign of their concern at growing public scrutiny, top U.S. foodmakers and restaurant chains, from McDonald's Corp to Kraft Foods Inc, have been changing they way they serve meals and reformulating the nutritional contents of some foods.

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