In the news: Philip James

April 25, 2003

For a man charged with tackling obesity, Philip James has clearly not lost sight of the joy of food, writes Claire Sanders. The chairman of the International Obesity Taskforce lists one of his recreations in Who's Who as "eating - preferably in France". The others are talking and writing reports.

It was his report on diet and nutrition in 1990 that led him to clash with the World Sugar Organisation, which challenged the view of his expert committee that sugar intake should not account for more than 10 per cent of a healthy diet.

This week the sugar industry again challenged plans by the World Health Organisation to issue guidelines on healthy eating that included the 10 per cent guideline.

Professor James, a former government adviser on food policy and an international expert on obesity, has long argued against the dominance of the fast food and soft drink industries in determining diet - particularly that of children.

"The fast food and soft drink industries have enormous vested interests, which we need to confront. If we don't, the epidemic of childhood obesity is going to rip through Europe so fast - with Britain being in the worst category - that we will have clinics of diabetic children of 13, where the evidence is clear that they will have major problems of blindness by the time they get into their 30s," he has said.

Before joining the task force Professor James was director of the Rowett research institute in Aberdeen from 1982 to 1999. He expanded the Rowett's research on human nutrition, setting up the human nutrition unit that has unique facilities for dietary and metabolic studies on normal healthy volunteers.

Professor James also developed the blueprint proposals that led to the government white paper The Food Standards Agency: A Force for Change, which paved the way for the establishment of the Food Standards Agency.

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