Food industry bears weight of obesity

Related tags Food industry Nutrition Obesity

The time has come for serious action in the food industry, as
UK-based international obesity task force echoes previous calls for
help in bringing about a 'major transformation in diet and
activity' in response to the ever rising numbers of overweight and

The food industry takes the rap for obesity once more as UK-based task force calls on the industry to 'help bring about a major transformation in diet and activity' needed to halt the rise in obesity and type two diabetes.

The International Obesity TaskForce​ (IOTF) used the launch of a new publication - the Atlas of Diabetes that incorporates an assessment of global levels of obesity - to urge food and drink manufacturers to help stem the tide of obesity.

"They must do a lot more than just form advisory councils to do a PR job on their image,"​ said IOTF chairman Prof Philip James.

"They must sit down seriously to work out how they can help meet the urgent need to reduce the high fat, sugar and salt content in a lot of the every day processed foods we consume so we can transform the dietary health of the world and in doing so help stem the increasing burden of weight-related disease such as type 2 diabetes,"​ he added.

Laying the responsibility for the health of the world on the shoulders of the food industry might be considered as extreme by some - not least the food industry itself.

But food manufacturers are in a position to make a firm contribution to stem the rising levels of obesity - with some already doing so.

In the US last month the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it would require all products containing trans-fatty acids (thought to be a major cause of health problems, including heart disease and raised cholesterol levels) to be labelled as such from January 2006 in order to enable consumers to be aware of what they are eating.

Certain manufacturers have already made the move. PepsiCo claims it was one of the first companies to voluntarily label trans-fat in its Frito-Lay chips, and that it was already moving towards eliminating trans-fats entirely from its range of products.

Unilever Bestfoods has said that it would make its top-selling I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! spread trans-fat-free by early next year, and that it too had already begun to reduce trans-fat content in a number of other products.

Prof James, although acknowledging that the food industry is starting to shoulder some of the responsibility, believes that it has yet to face up to their responsibility to improve nutritional health.

A report on diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases published by the World Health Organisation in April this year recommends that no more than 30 per cent of calories should come from fat, no more than 10 per cent from sugar and salt should be reduced to achieve a maximum intake for adults of 5 gms per day.

The IOTF estimates that more than 1.1 billion people are overweight or obese, with almost 1.7 billion at risk of a range of weight-related illnesses which include type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some common cancers. The International Diabetes Federation estimates that there are 190 million people with diabetes, forecast to rise to 330 million by 2025.

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