International Experts And Civil Society Groups Want Tobacco-style Global Treaty To Tackle Poor Diets

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - In a global show of support for increased efforts to tackle diet-related ill health, leading health campaigners and consumer advocates from across the world have publically endorsed calls for a tobacco-style Global Convention to protect and promote healthy diets. As the world’s governments gathered in Rome on 17 November for a conference that addressed malnutrition, they sent an open letter to the heads of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (UN) calling for a binding treaty, urging greater action to protect and promote healthy diets.

The letter states that ‘the governance of food production and distribution cannot be left to economic interests alone,’ and urges governments to take regulatory action to reduce children’s exposure to marketing, to impose compositional limits on the saturated fat, added sugar and sodium content of food, to bring in fiscal measures to discourage the consumption of unhealthy foods, and to require all trade and investment policies to be assessed for their potential health impacts. The letter calls for a similar mechanism to the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control, which has been successful in reducing tobacco use.

Diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer are increasing in all regions of the world, most rapidly in developing countries. Therefore, the policy actions that governments take now will determine whether the tide can be turned to stop this health crisis. A binding Global Convention offers the best hope of protecting and promoting the health of all consumers. The rapid expansion of the marketing of highly processed foods is undermining health in much of the developing world, leading to rapidly rising rates of obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases. Regulatory action is needed to control food markets will require political courage.

In our modern world with increasingly cheap, high calorie food such as fast food or ‘junk food’, high in salt, sugars or fat, combined with our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, increasing urbanisation and changing modes of transportation, is rapidly increasing obesity around the world. It has been ten years since the WHO launched its Global Strategy on Diet Physical Activity and Health and yet obesity continues to advance, along with diabetes, heart disease and other health complications.

Sadly, the warning signs are not being heard. As a result, the UN task force responsible for tackling this issue wants a five-pronged approach. Among their recommendations is a higher tax on unhealthy food products. It also wants to regulate foods that are high in saturated fats, salt, and sugar, ensuring there are stricter controls on foods that are known to be obvious health risks. In addition, the UN wants tighter controls on junk food advertising, particularly to prevent advertisements being aimed at children. Lastly, it wants to tackle agricultural subsidies that the food industry has used to make certain ingredients cheaper while unfortunately pricing out local produce. This, the UN hopes, will allow consumers to have better access to healthy and nutritious food.

Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet Photography