The letter was authored by Consumers International, the World Obesity Federation, the UK Health Forum and consumer groups in Fiji and Mexico, and has been signed by more than 320 global experts. It calls for regulation to control food marketing and food composition in an effort to stem expanding rates of obesity and diet-related disease, particularly in developing countries.
The call comes as governments meet in Rome this week for the Second International Conference on Nutrition.
“The governance of food production and distribution cannot be left to economic interests alone,” the letter’s authors told WHO director-general Dr Margaret Chan and FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva.
They propose developing policies to improve diets and population-wide health.
“This includes governments taking regulatory approaches to the operation of the market through, for example, restrictions on marketing to children, health claims, compositional limits on the saturated fat, added sugar and sodium content of food, removal of artificial trans fats, interpretative front-of-pack labelling, restaurant calorie labelling, fiscal measures and financial incentives, and public health impact assessments in trade and investment policies,” the letter said.
Its authors have drafted a ‘Global Convention to Protect and Promote Healthy Diets’, which includes a call for further commitments from the food and beverage industry to improve diet-related health.
Policy director for the World Obesity Federation Dr Tim Lobstein said: "The rapid expansion of the marketing of highly processed foods is undermining health in much of the developing world, leading to rapidly rising rates of obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases. Regulatory action to control food markets will require political courage. We should start with a Global Convention which can help Member States, particularly smaller nations, to build and maintain a robust defence of public health."
Director-general of Consumers International Amanda Long said: “A binding Global Convention offers the best hope of protecting and promoting the health of all consumers.”
The letter is available online here.