EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity & Health
The European Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health is a multi-stakeholder forum set up in 2005 by the then European Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou. The forum is intended to encourage interested parties to take initiatives aimed at fighting rising levels of obesity in Europe. The EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health describes its purpose as follows:
- The Platform gathers stakeholders to agree voluntary measures to combat overweight and promote physical activity.
- 1 About the EU Platform
- 2 Obesity and Physical Activity
- 3 Location
- 4 Members
- 5 Strengths of Platform
- 6 Weaknesses of Platform
- 7 Example of Member Commitments
- 8 Success of Platform
- 9 Food industry contributions
- 10 References
- 11 Notes
About the EU Platform
The idea behind the formation of the EU Platform is that citizens of Europe are moving too little and at the same time consuming too much energy, calories, fat, sugar and salt. Therefore resulting in an increase in the number of people that are overweight and obese, leading to an increase in ill health and the shortening of lives.
The EU Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health document "Beyond 2007" states:
- A Network of Experts on Nutrition and Physical Activity is in place to advise the Commission on preparing a broadly based strategy to support national and local efforts to confront the challenge. Also, a series of projects related to nutrition, obesity and physical activity are financed under the Public Health Action :programme.
- The document notes:
- The problem is sufficiently understood by certain actors, who are now in place to take actions and reverse the current trends caused by poor diet, these actors have all come together to advise, direct and to put the platform into action.
The EU Platform's aims are described on the EUFIC website as follows:
- The EU Platform should also act as a forum where good practice from one country can rapidly be disseminated and replicated across the continent. All Platform members have agreed to devote an increasing level of resources and effort either to extended existing initiatives or launching new actions designed to reverse the obesity trend. The five fields for action identified so far by the Platform members are:
- Consumer information, including labelling
- Physical activity promotion
- Marketing and advertising
- Composition of foods, availability of healthy food options, portion sizes
- Following the launch of the Platform, members drew up an inventory describing what it is they are currently doing to promote healthy diets and physical activity. This information will be used as a benchmark for monitoring future initiatives.
- The members have subsequently drawn up action plans for 2006, the key principle being that the plan must go beyond what is already being done. They key test for the Platform will be whether the action plans proposed by its members catalyse significant new activity in the fight against obesity. Therefore, by the end of 2006 the European Commission should be in a position to judge whether the Platform is producing real results.ref>"EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health", EUFIC website, accessed March 25 2009</ref>
Obesity and Physical Activity
In England alone obesity is responsible for over 9,000 premature deaths each year and is a major factor for a number of diseases such as;
Cardiovascular disease – mainly coronary heart disease and stroke, inactive and unfit people have nearly double the risk of dying from CHD
Type 2 Diabetes – In recent years it has become an epidemic, the World health Organisation predict that deaths caused by diabetes with rise by 50 % in the next ten years. Women who are obese are 13 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Cancer – Being obese increases the risk of cancers such as breast, colon, cervical and gall bladder. Research has shown a clear link between obesity and colon cancer, obesity increases the risk of men and women by almost 3 times.
Gallbladder disease – The risk of gallbladder disease increases with weight gain, most common form of the disease in gallstones, research shows that 30% of obese people have gallstones compared to 10% of normal weight individuals
Obstructive sleep apnoea – Obesity causes narrowing of the individual’s upper airway causing episodes of impaired breathing during sleep.
The latest predictions show that globally around 1.6 billion adults of 15 years and above are overweight and at least 400 million are obese. In the UK the number of adults with a desirable BMI decreased from 41% to 32.2 % in men and from 49.5% to 40.7% in women. It has been proven that obesity levels are higher in those with low activity levels to those who are active in both men and women, statistics also show that the risk of obesity varies according to age, gender, ethnicity and social class. The rising levels of obesity has also become a financial burden on the NHS In 2002 alone the direct cost of treating obesity was estimated to be between £46 and £49 million.
Physical activity has a wide range of benefits for the overweight and obese, physical activity alone can result in regular weight loss, and when combined with diet is very effective. Physical activity helps to reduce total body fat and cholesterol therefore improving cardiovascular risk, the risk of cancers especially breast and colon decreases with physical activity. Strategies to tackle obesity need to include lifestyle changes such as diet and health to work with physical activity, keeping up physical activity can be the best way of long-term weight management.
Many organisations and associations have recognised the current urgency of the obesity problem and have therefore become members of the EU platform in an effort to help change the current trends. Although an individuals health is ultimately their responsibility as the consumer or the parents, where children are concerned. Measures therefore must strengthen the skills and decision-making abilities of consumers, children and young people especially to favour a healthy lifestyle.
The EU Platform is based in Brussels, Belgium but has staff and commitments from countries all over the EU.
'Membership is open to any organisation operating at a European level that shares the Platform’s aims and that is willing to commit to action to help achieve them' , 'To date the Platform involves 34 member EU organisations ranging from food industry to consumer protection NGOs' , including
- Agricultural Organisations and Cooperatives
- Association of Commercial Television
- European Broadcasting Union
- European Consumer Organisation
- European Food Information Council
- European Public Health Alliance
- European Public Alliance
Strengths of Platform
- The varied mix of Stakeholders in the Platform is generally viewed as a strength.
- There has been high levels of political commitment, for example regualr meetings chaired by some of the Directors of Organisations.
- The platform is focused on taking action to change current trends, members have to submit plans on what they intend to do to promote healthy diets and physical activities
Weaknesses of Platform
- There is confusion over who can join the platform as the criteria has not yet been published by the European Commission
- Not all organisations show the same level of commitment, memebrs are not reimbursed for staff time when working on the platform, NGO's and other non-profit-organisations do not have the budgets that the industry associations have and therefore cannot spend as much time on the platform. 
Example of Member Commitments
CIAA is one of the 34 members of the EU platform, the CIAA is made up of national federations, assocations and food compnies, one of these associations is the Union of European Beverages Assocaition, 
UNESDA acts as an integral delegation lead by the CIAA; it represents a large sector of the European non-alcoholic beverage industry. UNESDA unites all the major producers of non-alcoholic beverages such as Cadbury Schweppes European Beverages, The coca-cola company and Pepsi Beverages Europe.
UNESDA and its members recognise the health issues and concerns of the public and the rising level of obesity and consequences that arise from a lack of physical activity and have therefore been working to implement initiative to address the issues.
The CIAA outlined a number of commitments as its contribution to the EU platform and the UNESDA is one of the associations which commits to these actions but the UNESDA also outlines their own further commitments which follow a similar structure to the CIAA’s
Increase involvement of private and public partners in educational programmes aimed at providing consumers with relevant information on healthy eating and lifestyle.
Provide nutrition information in a way that is noticeable to consumers and openly cooperate with EU authorities in developing future nutritional labelling rules.
The UNESDA commits to not place any marketing communication in printed media, websites or broadcast programmes specifically aimed at children, they also commit to avoiding any direct appeal to children to persuade parents.
There will be no engagement in any direct commercial activity in primary schools, unless requested.
In secondary schools they must ensure to be agreement and active participation of educators and parents to provide a full range of beverages including water, juices and low-calorie and regular beverages which must be in appropriate containers to allow portion control.
They also intend to respect the commercial free character of secondary schools by using unbranded vending machines which have healthy options and educational messages and images promoting healthy and active lifestyles.
They will ensure that all promotional activities e.g. under-the-cap offers and text message contests that offer rewards and prizes will not require the consumers to drink and excessive amount of products to take part.
Product and Choice
UNESDA and its members will also increase the number of new beverages with low or no calorie content and for existing beverages to have a light version available where it is possible.
They will also increase the choice in packaging sizes therefore increasing availability to customers to control individual consumption.
They wish to contribute within the limits to research on consumer behaviour and responsiveness to educational campaigns aimed at healthy eating and lifestyles; they will also share with other stakeholders their consumer research.
Recording Effects of Commitments
The UNESDA has many ways of monitoring the level and success of their commitments for example using statistical rates, evidence of new products and Qualitative assessments all of which they are prepared to share with the EU platform 
Success of Platform
In November 2006 the European Health & Consumer Protection commissioner praised several CEO’s of major food, drink and retail industries for their commitments to the EU platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health to tackle obesity. So far the platform have presented 146 commitments, some of the companies who the commissioner praised were: nine soft drinks companies in UNESDA for example Coco-Cola and PepsiCo who have not advertised soft drinks to under 12 year olds. McDonald’s was also praised for their commitment to provide nutritional information on packaging throughout Europe, Kraft were also praised for not marketing their products to children unless they meet a certain nutritional profile. The Commissioner said that the commitments are examples of concrete action taking place by the industry to tackle obesity; he also said that the EU platform was producing results and therefore would like to congratulate the companies and to encourage others to do the same. Commissioner Kyprianou also said that one reason for the commitments being so good was that their implementation is monitored in a transparent, accountable and participative way.
Food industry contributions
In December 2007 Eleven major food and beverage companies announced their commitment to addressing the way in which they advertise their products to children. Rocco Renaldi of Landmark Europe is the spokesperson for the food companies which are: Burger King, Coca-Cola, Groupe Danone, Ferrero, General Mills, Kelloggs, Kraft, Mars, Nestle, PepsiCo, Unilever. 
- EU Platform for Action on Diet,Physical Activity and Health Website , Acessed 5/2/08
- "The EU Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health 'Beyond 2007'" May 2007, accessed March 25 2009
- "The EU Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health 'Beyond 2007'" May 2007, accessed March 25 2009
- Physical Activity and Adult Obesity , Accessed 14/3/08
- CIAA Members role , Accessed 14/3/08
- EU platform , Accessed 14/3/08
- , Accessed 4/3/08
- European Public Health Alliance, Accessed 4/3/08
- Stregths and Weaknesses of Platform , Accessed 14/3/08
- UNESDA. , Accessed 14/3/08
- UNESDA Commitments to EU platfrom , Accessed 14/3/08
- Medical News; Nutrition/Diet , Accessed 22/03/08
- Press Release by Landmark Europe BRUSSELS, 11 December 2007 FOOD AND DRINK COMPANIES PLEDGE TO CHANGE ADVERTISING TO CHILDREN accessed 10th August 2009