The European Union (search) said Thursday it will bring the food and advertising industry together with health officials to contain the increasing problem of obesity in Europe (search), where one out of every four children is obese.
As part of the policy, EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou (search) wants to keep junk food ads away from children.
"The idea is that, along with other policies and action, children are protected from direct marketing and advertising convincing them and inducing them to consume too much of this product," he said in an interview with Associated Press Television News.
Kyprianou also called for a special forum on obesity in March, which would set self-regulatory standards by the end of the year. In initial talks on the issue, the industry has been cooperative, officials said.
The challenge is growing by the year, Kyprianou said. "One in every four children is obese. this mean future health problems," he said, highlighting the problems were worst in southern Europe.
The Commissioner fears the 25-nation European Union will be going the same way as the United States. "We made fun of Americans in a way. It is a European problem now," Kyprianou said in an interview with London's Financial Times.
The European Food Safety Authority (search) found last year that Europeans eat less of the most dangerous, cholesterol-raising fats than Americans do, and the amount is decreasing. Still, children keep getting fatter in Europe.
In the United States, authorities have already ordered food companies to produce more detailed labeling to warn consumers of dangerous, fattening products.
There is pressure for the EU to do the same and there are already anti-obesity drives in several EU nations.
France has banned soda and junk food vending machines from schools.
In most European countries, more than half of the population is overweight or obese. Countries in central and eastern Europe, which joined the European Union this month, have the worst problem, according to the International Obesity Task Force.