Contemporary food systems need to change – and the health and food sectors need to work more closely together - if more than half the world’s population that don’t eat enough, over eat, or eat poorly, are to be helped, the WHO has said.
Dr Hans Troedsson, executive director of WHO's Director-General's Office, said baby-to-elderly dietary interventions were a major way of tackling global disease.
"If we, in the past, were mainly challenged by malnutrition in children, we are today facing an epidemic of poor diets and low physical activity, leading to high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and overweight," Troedsson said.
"The nutrition and health threats have actually expanded and worsened and this will not go away by itself. We need to address it urgently now and in the future. The health sector and the food sector need to work together."
Scale of the problem
The drastic call came at a meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome this week where director general of the FAO, José Graziano da Silva, said, "It is clear that the ways in which food is managed today are failing to result in sufficient improvements in nutrition.”
“The most shocking fact is that over 840 million people still suffer from hunger today, despite the fact that the world already produces enough food for all, and wastes one-third of it."
In Europe, Roberto Ridolfi, European Union Commission Director for Sustainable Growth and Development said the EU was pushing for, "measurable and time-bound targets" to reduce child stunting and other consequences of malnutrition.
In addition to the 100s of millions that go hungry every day, another 2 billion suffer micronutrient deficiencies.
Another 7 million children die before their fifth birthday every year, 162 million children under five are stunted while at the same time, 500 million people are obese.
"The total amount of food produced but not consumed would be enough to feed an additional two billion. The truth of the matter is that, today, consumers are not receiving the right signals from current policies about how to eat healthily. That is what we need to address," Graziano da Silva added.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are also working toward the inclusion of a stand-alone goal on food security and nutrition in the post-2015 Development Agenda, as recommended by the High Level Consultation on Hunger, Food Security and Nutrition held in Madrid in April.