Obesity not 'a passing fad'
The rest of Europe should follow the lead of the UK's food retailers in combating rising levels of obesity and not ignore the problem as a 'passing fad'.

This will be the message tomorrow in Brussels when a delegation from the British Retail Consortium attempts to convince an audience of MEPs and European food industry figures that government targets on healthy eating can be met by grocers 'without the need for regulation'.

BRC director of food policy Andrew Opie is expected to say in his speech: 'As responsible retailers, BRC members are determined to play their part in combating obesity and we want to share our experiences. UK retailers have been actively promoting healthier diets in their stores for a number of years - UK food retailers are interested in long term solutions. This is not a passing fad.'

Opie will use a BRC report launched in the UK earlier this year, Healthy options, retail initiatives towards healthier eating, to make his case.

In the report, BRC director-general Kevin Hawkins said that the blame for a rise in levels of obesity in the UK had been unfairly laid on food retailers and manufacturers.

'The reality is quite different. Retailers want their customers to eat sensibly and adopt a healthy lifestyle - Critics will continue to claim that the food industry is part of the problem. Let there be no doubt that we are, first and foremost, part of the solution,' Hawkins added.

The report cited areas such as the development of healthy eating ranges, clearer and standardised nutrition labels and industry endorsement of Government messages, such as the five a day fruit and vegetable campaign as evidence of how UK retailers have helped to fight rising obesity levels.

The BRC also revealed today that it has joined forces with a pan-European group of retail trade bodies to press the EU to reform 'Europe's defunct trade defence system'.

The group - which includes retail federations from Ireland, Denmark and The Netherlands - is concerned that consumers are losing out as trade barriers are erected to protect 'a few uncompetitive European companies'.

It cites tariffs of nearly 20 per cent that were imposed earlier this year on leather shoes imported from China and Vietnam as 'preventing Europe's consumers from benefiting from global trade'.