Government and industry must heed the report's

Consumer groups are praising a forthcoming report by the World Health Organization (WHO) detailing the human and economic toll of diet-related disease, and are calling on government and industry to address the problem through new public policy initiatives.

The WHO report, expected to be released on Monday, is entitled, “Diet, nutrition, and the prevention of chronic disease.” It contains specific dietary recommendations, and suggests that governments consider steps to help consumers improve their diets and increase physical activity.

“The WHO should be praised for making sound dietary recommendations and urging consumers to cut back on foods high in calories, saturated fat, salt, and added sugars,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

“We hope that the WHO will now urge governments and industry to follow up on the findings in the report by taking bold new steps that will help consumers improve their diets and promote their health,” said Bruce Silverglade, legal director of CSPI and president of the International Association of Consumer Food Organizations (IACFO).

“Unfortunately, heavy pressure from the food industry and the U.S. government forced the WHO to drop key public policy recommendations such as restricting food advertising to children and taxing unhealthy junk foods that had appeared in earlier draft versions of the report. We hope the WHO will eventually make concrete public policy recommendations to governments as part of its Global Strategy for Diet, Physical Activity, and Health,” Silverglade said.

IACFO has previously urged the UN’s food standard-setting body to recommend that governments require more detailed nutrition and ingredient labeling, bar misleading health claims for foods, and explore standards for so-called functional foods.

IACFO also released a letter today to the Chief Executive Officer of McDonald’s calling on the fast-food chain to:

  • Sell convenience foods that are lower in calories, fat (especially saturated and trans fats), cholesterol, and sodium than traditional McDonald’s products;
  • Provide calorie-content information on menu boards so that consumers can easily choose foods partly on the basis of caloric content;
  • Offer more foods made with whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables;
  • Offer lower-fat vegetarian burgers and other foods in all outlets around the world;
  • Reduce the fat and sodium levels of traditional McDonald’s menu items;
  • Ban smoking in all McDonald’s restaurants worldwide.

The letter was signed by representatives of consumer, health, and medical organizations in Japan, Korea, Singapore, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The groups plan to send similar letters to other major fast-food chains.

The groups include the Japan Offspring Fund, the National Liaison Committee of Consumer Organizations of Japan, Citizen’s Alliance for Consumer Protection of Korea, The Food Commission (UK), the Center for Science in the Public Interest (U.S. and Canada) and the Australian Consumers’ Association. The letter was also signed by leading experts in the area of diet, health, and food policy, including Dr. Hasagawa Kyoko, Dean of the Graduate School of Kagawa Nutrition University; Dr. Yasuo Kagawa, Professor Emeritus, Jichi Medical School, Japan; Dr. Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy, City University London; Dr. Ung Eng Khean, National University Hospital; Dr. Chin Ho-Beng, National University of Singapore; and Dr. Tim Gill, University of Sydney.