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Do Europeans want governments to direct their eating choices?

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Madrid 26 October 2011: Public acceptance of nutrition policies is influenced by age, economic wealth, political views, obesity attributions, and the willingness to pay for such policies. The EATWELL survey is an international study which investigated the acceptance of nutrition policies in five European countries – UK, Italy, Belgium, Denmark and Poland – based on a random sample of over 3000 computer-assisted web interviews. The preliminary survey results were presented by Dr Mario Mazzocchi, University of Bologna, at the 11th FENS European Nutrition Conference in Madrid on Thursday 27 October 2011.

 
The EATWELL survey is part of the larger EATWELL Project, funded by the European Commission. Amidst the rising obesity epidemic, the EATWELL project is focused on effective policy interventions to promote good nutrition activity across the EU.
 
Dr Mazzocchi said “the two policy actions most accepted are the improvement of nutritional education in schools and nutrition labelling measures. In contrast, the least accepted policies are the control of the nutritional content of workplace meals and the introduction of food and drink advertising bans for adults.”
 
Perceived causes of obesity are the most important factors explaining support of healthy eating policies. Among all respondents, the most accepted cause of obesity is the lack of personal willpower towards changing food habits and exercise.  ‘Discounting’, or the tendency to place greater importance on immediate satisfaction than on future health risk, is perceived as a second cause of excess body weight. Support is higher among those respondents who blame external factors rather than personal ones for obesity.
 
Support for nutrition policies increases with age and physical activity level, and decrease with economic wealth. People who drink more heavily tend to be less supportive. Political views similarly play a role in acceptance, with conservative political views associated with weaker support regarding advertising regulations and information measures. When it comes to fiscal measures, left of centre citizens are significantly more supportive. Consumers who eat out at modern quick service restaurants and frequently consume prepared meals are less supportive of nutrition policies.
 
There is great variation between countries when it comes to acceptance of nutrition policies. “Denmark is the most supportive of fiscal interventions, and is also more willing to pay for healthy eating policies in general” said Dr Mazzocchi, “less than 16% of Danish citizens would oppose a tax rise to fund healthy eating actions, and most are prepared to accept a modest rise in taxes to fund measures like price subsidies for healthy foods, free home deliveries for the elderly and education measures”.
In other countries the preference is rather for fewer healthy eating policies and lower taxes.
 
Notes to editor:
For more information about the EATWELL project visit http://www.eatwellproject.eu/, or contact Sofia Kuhn at sofia.kuhn@eufic.org or 0032486673942.
 
EATWELL is an EU FP7 funded project running from April 2009 to September 2012. The EATWELL consortium is composed of teams from the University of Reading, University of London (SOAS), Aarhus Universitet, Universiteit Gent, Alma Mater Studiorum-Universita Di Bologna, The National Institute of Research on Food and Nutrition of Italy, Jagiellonian University Medical College, Kraft Foods R&D and the European Association of Communications Agencies (EACA). The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) is responsible for communicating the results of the project. Coordinating the project is Professor Bruce Traill of the University of Reading, UK. For more information about the project see www.eatwellproject.eu
 
The 11th FENS European Nutrition Conference, between 26 -29 October 2011, in Madrid, hosts an international gathering of nutrition experts where, under the slogan “Diversity versus Globalization: A Nutritional Challenge for a Changing Europe”, they seek to analyse the nutritional and lifestyle problems of the entire resident population in Europe. For more information about the 11th FENS European Nutrition Conference visit http://www.fensmadrid2011.com/.
 
See also associated press release, 26 October, on “Policies for a healthier Europe: are they effective?”, also presented at the 11th FENS European Nutrition Conference.
 
The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under Grant Agreement No. 226713, EATWELL project
 

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Europejska Rada Informacji o Żywności (ang. The European Food Information Council -EUFIC) jest organizacją typu non-profit, która dostarcza potwierdzonych naukowo informacji dotyczących jakości i bezpieczeństwa żywności oraz powiązań między sposobem żywienia a stanem zdrowia w sposób zrozumiały dla konsumentów. Adresatem tych informacji są media, osoby zawodowo związane z ochroną zdrowia i żywieniem, edukatorzy oraz liderzy opinii.

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