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Britain Heading Toward Obesity "Epidemic"

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LONDON, July 3 (AFP) - Britain is heading toward an obesity "epidemic" and urgent action is needed to change childrens' diets to reverse the trend, Britain's chief medical officer said Thursday.

Liam Donaldson also called upon the food industry to adopt a "more responsible approach" to marketing foods high in fat and sugars, particularly to young children.

Donaldson, who is the British government's senior advisor on medical issues, issued his warning as he released his annual report in London on the state of the nation's health.

"Many developed countries, including our own, are heading for an epidemic of overweight and obesity," wrote Donaldson in his report.

This will cause many lives to be lost prematurely as a result of heart disease and cancer, he said.

"Action is needed to help and support people, particularly children, to reshape their diet," he said.

"Curbing the obesity epidemic is one of the biggest public health challenges of the new century."

Of particular concern, said Donaldson, was the fact that children now are being afflicted with "late onset diabetes," which previously did not occur until middle age.

Donaldson urged the Food Standards Agency to look at options for reducing obesity through improving the transparency of food labels, as well as alerting consumers to the risks of high fat foods.

Concerns about rising obesity levels have sparked several corporate lawsuits of late in the United States, notably against the McDonald's fast-food chain.



COPYRIGHT 2003 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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