German Politicians Launch Battle of the Bulge | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 25.06.2008
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German Politicians Launch Battle of the Bulge

The German cabinet has initiated a plan of action to combat mounting obesity in the general population, putting forward a series of voluntary measures for states, local authorities and business to consider.

German school children eat healthy, self-prepared snacks

The program aims to instill healthy eating habits in kids

The national program prepared by Health Minister Ulla Schmidt in cooperation with Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Minister Horst Seehofer, aims to cut disease related to obesity noticeably by 2020.

The program has been allotted funds of 30 million euros ($46.7 million) until the end of 2010 to "consolidate and improve current and planned measures as well as create new impulses."

According to government statistics, some two-thirds of all German men between the ages of 18 and 80 are overweight and around half of all women.

Greens criticize slow pace

The opposition Green Party has criticized the coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats for moving at a "snail's pace" on the issue of nutrition and obesity, deriding the government's program as a "collection of bureaucratic activities lacking concrete action."

Obese people walk through the mud flats of Westerhever at the North Sea, northern Germany

The number of obese people in Germany is on the up

Among the proposed measures are courses at schools, which fall under the state governments, and awareness programs, although there are no plans for compulsory school courses on nutrition.

The government is aiming at agreeing a voluntary code with businesses, particularly in the confectionery sector, to avoid targeting children under 12 years in advertising. Additionally, the computer games industry will be encouraged to create games that require greater movement among players.

Among other measures proposed are better labeling of foods and motivating people to exercise more.

Taking a positive approach

Seehofer said that the government's program would not be discriminatory in tone, nor would it attempt to curb obesity through bans.

In contrast, Britain, which is at the forefront of the anti-obesity movement in Europe, has not shied away from stricter measures. Last year, regulators there banned ads for junk foods from appearing during television programs aimed at children.

The German government appears to be taking a softer approach, even changing the name of its program from the initial "Fit not Fat" to "Germany in Form."

Seehofer also acknowledged that it could be a long time before the country sees any drop in its obesity levels, as people's behavior first has to change.

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