EU official stresses educating children on healthy eating
"The issue of children nutrition's is extremely important for a very simple reason -- there are huge numbers of the population at the moment who are suffering from chronic diseases including, in particular, obesity," said John Ryan, director of public health, country knowledge, and crisis management in the European Commission Health and Food Safety Directorate General, at a press conference here.
An international conference on the future of health through child nutrition was held here Tuesday under the aegis of Bulgarian presidency of the EU Council.
Some 15 reports on topics such as how to bridge the gap between nutritional science and food habits in Europe, and EU initiatives on healthy nutrition for children were presented during the one-day event.
It was extremely important, Ryan said, to find a better way of educating children so that they choose healthy eating and don't suffer from the burden of chronic diseases that people are currently suffering from, Ryan said.
According to Ryan, this also had an economic aspect to it because some 70 percent of the cost of health care at the moment is devoted to treating people with chronic diseases.
Jeni Nacheva, Bulgaria's deputy health minister, said in turn that her country has adopted a national program to prevent chronic noncommunicable diseases such as those linked to unhealthy nutrition, smoking, and alcohol.
Bulgaria also had a detailed regulatory framework for nutrition in kindergartens and schools, Nacheva said.
"We believe that more can always be done to influence the attitudes of society, school, family, and to work together with all sectors," she said.
It was important to seek solutions together with other countries, Nacheva added.
Bulgaria's deputy minister of agriculture, food and forestry, Tzvetan Dimitrov, said that for nine years, his ministry has been successfully implementing healthy eating programs for children.
The programs provided fruit, vegetables and milk to 470,000 children and included information on their characteristics and health implications, Dimitrov said.
According to the latest annual report on the state of health of Bulgarian citizens, the proportion of obese children is 17.8 per thousand, while in 2011 the figure stood at 22.2 per thousand, with low levels of exercise and the unhealthy eating patterns being the largest factors in most of those who were overweight.
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