Food should be regulated like tobacco, campaigners say
Unhealthy foods are as big a global health risk as cigarettes, obesity groups warn
Governments around the world should impose regulations on food similar to those placed on tobacco to avoid obesity-related health problems in the future, campaigners say.
Consumers International (CI) and the World Obesity Federation (WOF) say that the potential threats posed by unhealthy foods could turn out to be more serious than those from cigarettes. The two groups called on governments around the world to introduce legislation to help consumers make healthy decisions about what they eat.
Unhealthy diets now rank above tobacco as a global cause of preventable non-communicable diseases, WOF said in a press release.
The two groups said that said worldwide deaths related to obesity and being overweight rose from 2.6 million in 2005 to 3.4 million in 2010.
CI's director general, Amanda Long, said that regulations should be imposed to avert problems similar to those caused by tobacco. "The scale of the impact of unhealthy food on consumer health is comparable to the impact of cigarettes," she added.
The two groups say that the best way to tackle the problem is through worldwide "collective action". The new rules the groups advocate include measures to reduce people's salt, saturated fat and sugar intakes, offering better food in hospitals and schools, the introduction of stricter advertising controls, and initiating better education campaigns to help individuals make healthy choices, the BBC reports.
Luke Upchurch at CI said: "If we don't take action now we are going to have the same intransigence and foot-dragging in the food industry... as the tobacco industry in the 1960s."
But Terry Jones, director of communications at the Food and Drink Federation, told the BBC that the food and drinks industry in the UK was already taking action to combat obesity.
He said: "The industry's participation in the UK government's public health responsibility deal sees manufacturers working in partnership with government, health organisations, NGOs and other stakeholders."