EU health commissioner Markos Kyprianou has praised the EU soft drinks industry for its commitment to stop advertising its products to children. However, he has faced criticism for apparently endorsing products that many still believe are a root cause of Europe's obesity crisis.

Speaking at a "name and praise" event in Brussels, the commissioner said it was important to encourage the efforts made by the companies - acting under the aegis of the Unesda industry association - to combat obesity. 

"I have been criticised by the food and drink industry in the past for not doing enough to support them, so I am happy to praise them when they are making real efforts to reduce obesity."

Unesda and the nine companies, including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Orangina and GlaxoSmithKline, have committed to take action via the European Commission's Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, launched in March last year to tackle the growing obesity problem.

Kyprianou refuted claims that his support for the industry he was meant to be policing was inappropriate, arguing that working together was the best way to achieve successful results.

But he warned that self-regulation by the industry had to be closely monitored to ensure that companies "do what they say will do", and welcomed the independent assessment of the drinks industry's commitments by auditors PwC and drinks industry specialist Canadean. "We won't hesitate to take action in the future if we think the system of self-regulation isn't working," he added.

"We are pleased that the commissioner has confidence in the EU soft drinks industry," said Dominique Reiniche, president of Coca-Cola's EU operations and president of Unesda. "We believe that self-regulation is the best way to get quick, effective results, through binding but voluntary commitments."

Alain Beaumont, secretary general of Unesda, told just-drinks that the industry had committed to independent monitoring of its commitments after its own research showed consumers remained sceptical.