FAO Chief warns ‘globalization of obesity’ | Daily News

FAO Chief warns ‘globalization of obesity’

 To address the interconnected problems of hunger, obesity, and climate change, the international community needs to introduce regulations and standards that transform food systems so that they provide, in sustainable ways, healthy and nutritious food for everyone, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva yesterday.

He made the appeal during a meeting by Ministers of Agriculture of the G20 in Niigata, Japan, to discuss investment priorities for sustainable agricultural development. Hunger is the worst type of malnutrition and must be tackled, but we have to bear in mind that other forms of malnutrition such as obesity are also causing increasing and severe damages to humanity, he said.

This, he added, will only be possible through strong private-public partnerships.

The main reason for the increase in the prevalence of obesity and overweight, the FAO Director-General noted, is the inability of food systems to deliver healthy diets.

“Current food systems are failing to provide people with healthy food and the nutrients that are necessary for a healthy life. They are not oriented to produce healthy food, only food,” he said. “As a result people are eating badly more and more.”

As we discuss how agriculture can contribute for sustainable development, we have to bear in mind that the food challenges facing humanity nowadays also include improving the quality of food, Graziano da Silva underscored.

Nowadays, more than two billion people are overweight. A third of these (more than 670 million) are obese, a condition strongly associated with higher risks of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and some forms of cancer.

Projections suggest that the number of obese people in the world will very soon overtake the number of people suffering from hunger, which accounted for 821 million in 2017. This has already happened in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“While hunger is mainly circumscribed to those areas affected by conflicts or the impacts of climate change, obesity is everywhere: we are witnessing its globalization,” Graziano da Silva said. Eight of the 20 countries with the fastest rising rates of adult obesity are in Africa, and of the 38 million overweight children under five, almost half are in Asia.

Globally, the problem carries an exorbitant cost, estimated at $2 trillion a year (equivalent to the impact of smoking or the impact of armed conflicts) in healthcare and lost productivity.

Promoting good nutrition and healthy diets is not an individual task but a public responsibility, which is not limited to governments, he said: “Only with the engagement of private sector and civil society this serious issue can be solved. Regulating sustainable food systems for healthy diets also needs the support of the food industry”.

Graziano da Silva cited Chile’s example, where there are reports that link the reduction of obesity among children to the development of a front-of-pack food label system.


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