With the globalized food systems and the spread of Western lifestyles on the rise, the world is at risk of creating public health disaster.
According to UN food expert, the current food systems create sick people and has spawned public health disaster with over a billion people suffering from undernourishment while another billion remain overweight or obese.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food Olivier De Schutter today highlighted that the right to food means not only access to an adequate quantity of food, but also the ability to have a balanced and nutritious diet.
Mr. De Schutter also urges governments to uphold their responsibility in securing their citizens’ right to healthy foods.
Mr. De Schutter identified five priorities for putting nutrition back at the heart of food systems in both the developed and developing world.
“They are taxing unhealthy products; regulating foods high in saturated fats, salt and sugar; cracking down on junk food advertising; overhauling “wrong-headed” agricultural subsidies making unhealthy ingredients cheaper than others; and supporting local food production.” -Mr. De Schutter
He underlines that urbanization, supermarketization, and the global spread of Western lifestyles have shaken up traditional food habits. The result is a public health disaster.
The accessibility and abundance of highly-processed foods as a major factor in nutrition-related illnesses as they tend to be richer in saturated and trans-fatty acids, salt and sugars, according to the UN expert.
He argued, children frequently become addicted to the junk foods targeted at them.
He cites that Western dietary habits had brought diabetes and heart disease to the developing world.
He stresses that the world have deferred to food companies the responsibility for ensuring that a good nutritional balance emerges.
He further adds that voluntary guidelines and piecemeal nutrition initiatives have failed to create a system with the right signals, and the odds remain stacked against the achievement of a healthy, balanced diet.
“Ambitious, targeted nutrition strategies can work, “but only if the food systems underpinning them are put right.” -Mr. De Schutter
On September 2011, UN called for taxing unhealthy food, regulating harmful marketing practices and standing up to the food industry.
According to UN, globalization of food supply chains means an increased supply of junk food such as energy-rich, nutrient-poor products processed with transfats to ensure a long shelf life – which are particularly attractive to poor consumers because they are cheap – with “dramatic” consequences for public health, affecting disproportionately those with the lowest incomes.
WHO reports that at least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese, with 44 per cent of diabetes, 23 per cent of ischaemic heart disease and from 7 to 41 per cent of certain cancers attributable these factors.