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Ministers bid to tackle obesity

Health Secretary Alan Johnson has announced a fresh bid to tackle obesity as he  acknowledged there is a looming public health crisis to rival that of climate change.

Mr Johnson said efforts to promote exercise and healthy eating have to go "further and faster" in response to the stark findings of a new Government study.

The Foresight research, commissioned in 2005 to help ministers understand the scale of the problem, warns that half the population will be obese within 25 years if current trends continue.

Professor Klim McPherson of Oxford University and Tim Marsh of the National Heart Foundation predict that 86% of men will be overweight within 15 years and 70% of women within 20 years.

Mr Johnson said the Government could not afford to allow the problem to deepen and is set to ask the Food Standards Agency to probe the use of unhealthy "trans-fats" in fast food.

"For the first time, we are clear about the magnitude of the problem: we are facing a potential crisis on the scale of climate change, and it is in everybody's interest to turn things round," he said.

But Mr Johnson added that individuals have to shoulder some of the responsibility too as part of a "cultural and societal shift".

"There is no single solution to tackle obesity and it cannot be tackled by Government action alone," he said.

"We will only succeed if the problem is recognised, owned and addressed at every level and every part of society."

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