European Union health and consumer affairs commissioner, Markos Kyprianou warned on Thursday that the continent's food industry must move fast to curb the exponential growth of obesity - especially among children and teenagers.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Kyprianou said he recognized that the fastest and most effective way to tackle the problem is self-regulation within the food industry.

But, he warned, if the industry fails to put its house in order, the European Commission will introduce restrictive legislation. The commissioner expressed concern at campaigns marketing unhealthy foods and beverages, especially those targeting children.

The European food industry has just one year to achieve effective self-regulation on the issue - failing which the EC will intervene. "The signs from the industry are very encouraging, very positive," Kyprianou told the FT. "But if this doesn't produce satisfactory results, we will proceed to legislation."

Advertising is not the only target on which the commissioner's crosswires are trained. He also urges the food industry to make product labels clearer; likewise to cooperate with governments and health bodies in creating campaigns to promote healthy lifestyles.

Kyprianou will convene a pan-industry conference in March to draft new self-regulatory standards. He is aiming for concrete commitments by the end of 2005.

Savvier advertisers have already seen the moving finger write - and even read the script! Among those now blazing a self-regulatory trail are Kraft Foods [WAMN: 13-Jan-05], General Mills and Unilever [WAMN: 9-Jun-04]

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff