HAMBURG (Reuters) - Germany’s food industry must label unhealthy products more clearly, the country’s new agriculture and consumer protection minister said on Thursday.

“About 15 percent of our children and young people are overweight, about 17 billion euros (15 billion pounds) of healthcare costs are generated annually by diet-related illnesses,” Julia Kloeckner told a food industry conference in Berlin.

Kloeckner took office in the new German government in March, with the coalition agreement committing to a strategy to reduce consumption of sugar, fat and salt.

She called on Germany’s food industry to make its own concrete proposals on how to achieve this in the near future.

The existing voluntary labelling of food content should be improved, removing sometimes confusing statements about small portions that in turn have small levels of unhealthy content, she said.

But Germany will not introduce a "traffic light" system of red, yellow and green codes for healthy and unhealthy food, she said. She regarded this as oversimplified.