WHO and food industry seek joint strategy for healthier diets to cut death rate

9 May 2003

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today launched its first high-level consultations with the food industry to forge a global strategy aimed at encouraging healthier diets and increased physical activity in the battle against diseases that account for nearly 60 per cent of annual deaths worldwide.

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today launched its first high-level consultations with the food industry to forge a global strategy aimed at encouraging healthier diets and increased physical activity in the battle against diseases that account for nearly 60 per cent of annual deaths worldwide.

"To effect changes in diet and physical activity poses an enormous challenge," WHO Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland told the first formal Roundtable meeting in Geneva between the agency and senior executives from the food and associated industries. "In an increasingly globalized and interdependent world, we believe WHO's goals can only be met through broader involvement with diverse stakeholders."

Unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use are among the leading causes of cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes, respiratory disease, obesity and other non-communicable conditions that now account for 59 per cent of the 56.5 million global deaths annually, and almost half, or 45.9 per cent, of the global burden of disease. The majority of chronic disease problems now occur in developing countries.

Describing the meeting as "a positive beginning," Ms. Brundtland said it formally launched what WHO hoped would be an ongoing and constructive high-level dialogue with private sector companies.

The Roundtable was attended by about a dozen senior executives from companies

including Nestle, Unilever, The Coca-Cola Company, The Kellogg Company, PepsiCo Inc., Cadbury Schweppes plc, Compass Group, McDonald's, Yum! Brands Inc., Mizuno Corp, Pentland Group Plc and Royal Ahold N.V.

WHO, together with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), last month launched an experts’ report on a healthy diet low in saturated fats, sugars and salt and high in vegetables and fruits, coupled with regular exercise, and called for decisive action on a global in order to combat rapidly growing death rates from diseases such as cancer, obesity and diabetes.

 

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