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People have been talking about the dangers of smoking for a long time. However, according to a recent article, unhealthy diets actually pose an even greater risk to global health, and governments should move to tax harmful food products. In a statement issued on the opening of the annual summit of the World Health Organization (WHO), Belgian professor Olivier de Schutter called for efforts to launch negotiations on a global pact to tackle the obesity epidemic. Just as the world worked together to tackle the spread of tobacco, he has called for a need to come together to regulate the wide sale of unhealthy foods.
Back in 2005, a UN convention on tobacco control aimed at reducing deaths and health problems caused by the product went into force after a long series of negotiations under the umbrella of the WHO. In a report to the rights council in 2012, de Schutter claimed that a similar accord on food should include taxing unhealthy products, regulating food high in saturated fats, salt and sugar while cracking down on the advertising of junk food. It also called for an overhaul on the system of farm subsidies that make certain ingredients cheaper than others, and for support for local production so that consumers will have access to healthy, fresh and nutritious foods.
In a statement made yesterday, de Schutter said that any attempts to promote better diets and fight obesity will only work if the food systems underpinning them are put right. While governments are focusing on increasing calories availability, they have often been indifferent on what kind of calories are being offered, at what price they’re being offered, to whom they’re made available and how they’re marketed. Such measures are necessary, in the words of de Schutter, to make sure that people are protected from aggressive misinformation campaigns.