• Global diet-related deaths continue to rise despite 10 years of WHO strategy
• Governments must take on corporate interests to have any hope of beating obesity crisis
• International alliance calls for globally binding treaty to reverse dangerous trends in eating habits
Consumers Internationali and World Obesity Federationii today call 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 will officially launch their Recommendations towards a Global Convention to protect and promote healthy diets at the World Health Assembly in Geneva this week.
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.
Publication of the Recommendations comes on the 10th anniversary of the WHO Global Strategy on Diet and Physical Activity and Health, which recognised the impact of unhealthy diet and lifestyle.
Since then however, 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.
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.”
World Obesity Federation Director of Policy, Dr Tim Lobstein says: “The global prevalence of obesity – defined as a BMI ≥30 – doubled between 1980 and 2008, to 10% of all men worldwide, and 14% of all women. That’s 205 million men and 297 million women – more than half a billion obese people. In terms of numbers, the United States has led the way, but they are closely followed by China, Brazil, and Mexico.
“These figures show the scale of the problem to be addressed. If obesity was an infectious disease we would have seen billions of dollars being invested in bringing it under control. But because obesity is largely caused by the overconsumption of fatty and sugary foods, we have seen policy-makers unwilling to take on the corporate interests who promote these foods. Governments need to take collective action and a framework convention offers them the chance to do this.”
Obesity is a major risk factor for a wide range of non-communicable diseases. Figures show that in 2008, 36 million people died from non-communicable diseases, representing 63 per cent of the 57 million global deaths that year. In 2030, such diseases are projected to claim the lives of 52 million people.