MEPs vote to restrict junk food TV ads

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BRUSSELS -- The European Parliament voted Thursday to restrict TV advertising of junk foods, and called for tighter measures to ensure the media helps in the fight against obesity in Europe.

Members of the European Parliament voted in Brussels by 620 to 24 for EU-wide controls on TV advertising of foods high in fat, sugar and salt to children. They backed a report drafted by Belgian Liberal Democrat Frederique Ries that said new forms of advertising to children, such as text messaging to cell phones, online games and sponsorships of playgrounds should be included.

The MEPs called on European media industries to ensure that children's products in different media formats -- television, cinema, Internet and video games -- carry information about the importance of practicing sport and of eating fruits and vegetables in order to remain healthy.

"The media are now more than ever before an essential teaching device for learning about nutritional health and one that should offer practical advice to consumers," the report said.

British Labor Party MEP Linda McAvan welcomed the move. "Some 22 million children living in the EU are estimated to be obese or overweight, so we need this action on advertising," she said.

The MEPs called on governments to recognize obesity officially as a chronic disease. For adults, the growth rate is the same as in the U.S. in the early 1990s: Nearly 27% of men and 38% of women in Europe are these days regarded as being overweight or obese.
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