Wednesday, January 26, 2005 Europe's new diet SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER EDITORIAL BOARD Like the United States, Europe faces a growing problem of childhood obesity. After years of relatively lax regulation of food labeling and advertising, Europeans are fighting back more aggressively than we are. Markos Kyprianou, the European Union's commissioner for health and consumer affairs, sent a strong warning to food companies last week, saying that they face strict regulations unless they agree to reduce advertising aimed at children. In an interview with the Financial Times, Kyprianou said he would like to see "the industry not advertising directly to children anymore." Britain has similarly emphasized voluntary action. But Public Health Minister Melanie Johnson told British reporters, "There is a strong case for action to limit the advertising and promotion to children of those foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar." Similar support from top Bush administration officials is something parents here could only dream about. But pressure is building. A committee of the Institute of Medicine last year recommended that companies develop marketing guidelines aimed at childhood obesity. And the Los Angeles Times reports that a new institute committee is looking at how advertising influences kids' choices. As in Europe, U.S. food marketing needs to change. On either continent, voluntary action would be preferable. But, as President Bush sometimes likes to say, no option should be off the table.