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Professor Olivier de Schutter on a healthy lifestyle

"Raise fruit and vegetable consumption by pushing people in the right direction"

Olivier de Schutter spoke about promoting a healthy lifestyle in the EU during the Freshfel Europe's Policy Meeting. He was a special UN reporter on the right to food until the end of May 2014. Professor de Schutter pleads for a world wide agreement to stimulate healthy eating habits and raise fruit and vegetable consumption. He believes an unhealthy lifestyle is a larger threat to worldwide health than tobacco.

"Health is an important subject that keeps the whole world busy nowadays. What is striking is that more people are overweight in rich countries. The number of people with obesity is increasing hugely, mainly in the US. Mexico is rapidly heading down the same road as the US. The increase in weight and obesity is also causing an increase in medical costs. The costs are also increasing the EU and a lot of children weigh too much nowadays."

Offer large supply
What to do? It is complicated, but we have to face reality. We can take action on various levels. Societal, social and individual levels. Lifestyle choices can only be understood if we know what happens on these levels and certain situations and what influences these choices. These are a lot of aspects and range from the influence on children from their environment to taxing certain foods. The access to healthy also isn't good all over the world. We have to make sure that all retailers offer a large supply of vegetables and fruit. Every member state should tackle this separately."

He gave six statements that he believes would work. "For instance, we have to get a picture of how the marketing of food actually works. The marketing of unhealthy food and drink isn't well organised in the EU. It is very dangerous, especially for children. Many agree that we shouldn't allow advertisement of unhealthy products for children under 12. I don't know if this alone would work, as they will come into contact with it through other means. Schools often offer a lot of unhealthy products." He indicates that it is difficult for the fruit and vegetable sector to promote their products. "It's not as easy to advertise fruit as it is soft drinks or crisps."

A lot of influences 
The actions we often see taken to improve health tend to focus on an individual level and don't take into account society and the influences on a social area. It is important that we give consumers a push in the right direction which causes people to behave differently. This can be done by simply placing fruit at eye level, so that people tend to choose it more. Banning unhealthy food doesn't work." He believes that as the EU we need to change a lot of things that are hard to change. "Due to the new technologies and the good infrastructure we have a a lot of food that we like, but that isn't good for us available."

He pleads for a sector transgressing approach in the EU. "The decision made at an EU level must also be continued in member states. "Good things have been set up by the EU that can improve health, but they aren't possible or easy to carry out in all countries. We have a start, there is a plan of action against obesity in children. We need to continue this!"
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