Influencers may face fines as China fights obesity and food waste

According to a new government report released Wednesday, more than half of China’s adult population is either overweight or obese.

Obesity rates in China have doubled within two decades, and health authorities warn of an increase in chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer.

A new government report found that 34.3% of adults were overweight and 16.4% were obese. (The study studied a group of 600,000 Chinese residents between 2015 and 2019.) By comparison, 30% of Chinese adults were overweight and 11.9% were obese in 2012, according to a government survey published in 2015.

“The unhealthy lifestyle of residents is still common everywhere,” Li Bin, deputy director of China’s National Health Commission, said during a news conference on Wednesday. Most households use salt and oil in quantities that exceed the recommended guidelines, he said, and people are increasingly turning to processed foods and fatty restaurants.

In the past, Chinese health initiatives have stressed the importance of exercise rather than reducing harmful foods and soda, in part because of Coca-Cola’s lobbying impact on obesity-related research and food regulations.

But on Wednesday, Li cited sugar-sweetened drinks as one of the causes of childhood obesity. “Frequent consumption of sugary drinks by children and adolescents has been presented as a prominent problem,” he said. According to the latest data, 19% of children aged 6 to 17 are overweight or obese.

Lee said that officials will take steps to stop the jump in obesity and chronic diseases with a new initiative called “Healthy China 2030”. Zhao Wenhua, chief nutritionist at China’s Centers for Disease Control, said officials would encourage producers to produce low-fat, low-sugar snacks and drinks.

A bill aimed at discouraging food wastage was submitted to the country’s top legislature for review on Tuesday, the state-run Chinese news service reported. The provisions include punishing influential people on social media who make money by posting videos of them eating excessive amounts of food online with fines of up to $ 15,300 and requiring restaurants to offer different portion sizes.

President Xi Jinping launched a high-profile campaign against food waste this summer, seeking to eliminate the deep-rooted custom of ordering excessive dishes in restaurants as a demonstration of wealth and generosity. Although officials said there was no immediate food shortage, the “clean plate” initiative was launched after severe floods destroyed agricultural communities and when food prices rose steadily.

Although Chinese authorities often cite the government’s success in reducing hunger over the past three decades, according to the World Food Program, nearly 151 million Chinese still suffer from malnutrition. However, China’s rapid development is largely responsible for a global shift in which obesity and related diseases are now killing more people than malnutrition.

Obesity statistics in China are part of a global pattern. Obesity in adult Americans has risen 12.4% over the past 18 years, with 42.4% of adults in the United States now living with the condition. According to the World Health Organization, obesity has almost tripled worldwide since 1975.

Obesity has also emerged as a major indicator of the severity of coronavirus symptoms in patients with both diseases. A recent study from China that analyzed a group of 112 patients with COVID-19 found that of the 17 patients who died, 15 were overweight or obese.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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