Consumers groups call for international obesity action

A coordinated global effort is required from governments to battle rising obesity deaths.
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01.Recommendations for global fight against obesity

Overweight man takes a walk.

Consumers International and World Obesity Federation have called on the international community to develop a global convention to fight diet-related ill health, similar to the legal framework for tobacco control. Unhealthy diets now rank above tobacco as a global cause of preventable non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The two international membership bodies officially launched their Recommendations towards a Global Convention to protect and promote healthy diets at the World Health Organisation (WHO) World Health Assembly in Geneva.

The recommendations call on governments to make a binding commitment to introduce a raft of policy measures designed to help consumers make healthier choices and improve nutrition security for everyone.

Measures include:
  • placing stricter controls on food marketing,
  • improving the provision of nutrition information,
  • requiring reformulation of unhealthy food products,
  • raising standards for food provided in public institutions, and
  • using economic tools to influence consumption patterns.

Global deaths attributable to obesity and overweight have risen from 2.6 million in 2005 to 3.4 million in 2010, thus intensifying the pressure on governments to take stronger action to tackle the rising epidemic of obesity and consequent chronic disease.

In addition, obesity is a major risk factor for a wide range of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Figures show that in 2008, 36 million people died from non-communicable diseases, with such diseases projected to claim the lives of 52 million people in 2030.

In her opening address to the Health Assembly, WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan voiced her deep concern about the increase worldwide of childhood obesity, with numbers climbing fastest in developing countries. Chan has established a high-level Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity to gather the best possible advice on dealing with this crisis.

Consumers International director general, Amanda Long says: “The scale of the impact of unhealthy food on consumer health is comparable to the impact of cigarettes. The food and beverage industry has dragged its feet on meaningful change and governments have felt unable or unwilling to act.

“The only answer remaining for the global community is a framework convention and we urge governments to seriously consider our recommendations for achieving that. If they do not, we risk decades of obstruction from industry and a repeat of the catastrophic global health crisis caused by smoking.”


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