Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Selling obesity in France

France Battles a Problem That Grows and Grows: Fat

By ELAINE SCIOLINO January 25, 2006

While adult obesity is rising about 6 percent annually, among children the national rate of growth is 17 percent. At that rate, the French could be - quelle horreur - as fat as Americans by 2020. (More than 65 percent of the population in the United States is considered overweight or obese.)

Just a few years ago, obesity in France was a subject relegated to morning television talk shows and women's magazines. Now the issue has become political.

When Jean-Marie Le Guen, a doctor and Socialist member of Parliament, began introducing bills on how to stop what he calls France's "epidemic," some of his colleagues dismissed him as a radical fringe nuisance. Now he is considered a pioneer.

"It used to be little talked about, and when it was, it was the domain of women complaining that they had put on a little weight," said Dr. Le Guen, who has written a book, "Obesity: The New French Sickness." The sickness, he predicted, will be "one of the important themes" of the Socialists in the campaign for president next year.
Obesity kills

With its universal health care coverage, the French government is also interested in cutting medical costs associated with obesity and diabetes. A recent advertising campaign by the National Collective of Associations of the Obese, an educational and lobbying organization, shows a markedly obese nude woman under the headline "Obesity Kills." (An estimated 55,000 people in France die of obesity-related illnesses every year.)

Some of the reasons for the increase in obesity are those that plague the United States and much of Europe: the lure of fast food and prepared foods, the ubiquity of unhealthy snacks and sedentary lives.

McDonald's is more profitable in France than anywhere else in Europe. Sales have increased 42 percent over the past five years. Some 1.2 million French, or 2 percent of the population, eat there every day.
Findus, the frozen food giant best known for its breaded, frozen fish filets, filmed French people eating over a period of time and was shocked by the results.

Contrary to the myth that the French spend hours sitting around the table savoring small portions of several courses, the films showed them eating in front of their television sets, while on the telephone and even alone. In fact, the average French meal, which 25 years ago lasted 88 minutes, is just 38 minutes today..."



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