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Can cigarettes teach us about french fries?

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Obesity is a burgeoning global epidemic. Attributable worldwide deaths rose from 2.6 million in 2005 to 3.4 million in 2014.
Drawing on decades of experience in the fight for global tobacco control, public health advocates are attempting an aggressive response to control a problem already tinkering on calamity.
Today, at a meeting of the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Consumers International and the World Obesity Federation – two world leaders in the growing fight against obesity – published a report supporting global adoption of an international convention to fight diet-related disease.  Modeled on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) – an international, evidence-based treaty laying out a plan for tobacco control initiatives – this report “calls for government commitment to introduce a raft of policy measures designed to help consumers make healthier choices and improve nutrition security for everyone.”
Policy approaches include:

  • calling on governments to impose stricter rules on the food industry, including pricing, taxes, and licensing
  • graphic pictures and labels on food packaging showing the damage caused by obesity, similar to those on cigarettes
  • reducing salt, saturated fat and sugar levels
  • improving food served in hospitals and schools
  • phasing out the use of artificial trans-fats entirely
  • prohibiting advertising to children during television programs

“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,” said Consumers International Director General Amanda Long.
Though this proposal will surely be called radical by many, it will undoubtedly prompt an important and much needed debate challenging our collective conscience around obesity and how to understand a growing epidemic.

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