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Food industry should be regulated like tobacco, expert says

UN expert calls for greater regulation and says obesity, unhealthy diets are greater threats than tobacco

UN expert calls for greater regulation as obesity, unhealthy diets greater threat than tobaccoIn the same way countries around the world came together to regulate tobacco, UN Special Rapporteur on the right of food, Olivier De Schutter, said a similar framework should be used to fight global obesity.

De Schutter released his statements before the World Health Assembly beginning in Geneva began Wednesday. He said despite the signs and “well-identified” priority actions, the international community does not give the problem adequate attention.

“It has been two years since my report on nutrition and the right to food, and ten years since the World Health Organization (WHO) launched its Global Strategy on Diet Physical Activity and Health,” he said. “Yet obesity continues to advance - and diabetes, heart disease and other health complications along with it. The warning signs are not being heard.”

De Schutter, an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council, identified five actions to address obesity and unhealthy diets in his 2012 report.

Here he called to tax unhealthy products; regulate foods high in saturated fat, salt and sugar; crack down on junk food advertising; overhaul agricultural subsidies that make certain ingredients cheaper; and support local food production.

“Attempts to promote healthy diets will only work if the food systems underpinning them are put right,” he said. “Governments have been focusing on increasing calorie availability, but they have often been indifferent to what kind of calories are on offer, at what price, to whom they are made available, and how they are marketed.”

The World Obesity Federation and Consumers International called for similar action the same day and announced their intentions to launch their “recommendations towards a global convention to protect and promote healthy diets” at the assembly in Geneva.

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