WHO: food, beverage companies' efforts to
fight child obesity are inadequate print
By UTA HARNISCHFEGER | Associated Press
November 16, 2005
GENEVA - Efforts so far by the food and
drink industry to improve the nutritional
value of their products to fight childhood
obesity are simply not good enough, the
World Health Organization said Wednesday.
"The industry's efforts are commendable, but
inadequate. They are only a drop in the
ocean," Colin Tukuitonga, who oversees the
WHO's global strategy on diet and physical
activity, said before a meeting with
representatives of the food and soft drink
Some industry giants such as Kraft, Nestle
and Unilever have recently reviewed their
recipes and reduced the salt, sugar and fat
content of some of their products. They have
also pledged to change some of their
advertising and marketing practices.
"These are selected companies doing one-off
changes," Tukuitonga said. "They are making
a genuine effort ... but we need an
Wednesday's meeting is part of WHO's global
strategy on diet and physical activity
launched last year after health ministers
from around the world approved the plan.
The agency believes profound changes in the
way food is processed and marketed are
essential to turning the tide of the growing
obesity epidemic, which is predicted to
cause millions of people worldwide to suffer
early death or disability.
Officials want companies to make additional
commitments or set specific targets.
"We are already doing a lot on a company
level," said Nina Backes, spokeswoman at
Nestle. "I am not aware that we will make a
specific commitment toward the WHO."
Backes said Nestle has cut fat, salts and
sugars in some 700 products in recent years
and changed its labeling policy to provide
additional information to the consumer.
Tukuitonga said he hoped the food industry
"would voluntary agree on some self-imposed
actions and targets," particularly for
processed foods. "We are a long way from
what we consider healthy foods," he said.
He said guidelines by WHO and the U.N. Food
and Agriculture Organization recommend, for
instance, that that each adult consume no
more than 5-6 grams of salt per day.
Consumption of salt around the world varies
greatly, but the global average is at least
double the recommended amount, officials
Neville Rigby of the International Obesity
Task Force, a network of eminent obesity
scientists and policy experts, lauded some
companies for making "pretty strong
statements," but said it was hard to monitor
how they delivered on their pledges.
Kraft, for example, has pledged to reduce
television commercials for snacks during
prime time for children.
Tukuitonga said progress would be slow, but
that the nature of food and drink makes it
almost impossible and certainly very
impracticable for WHO to impose binding
rules, as it did with the global tobacco
treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco
Rigby said WHO must aim at aligning food
industry interests with its fight against
"It is all about replacing junk food with
healthy food ... and the industry stands to
make a lot of money from that," Rigby said.
There are already anti-obesity drives in
many countries. France has banned carbonated
drinks and junk food vending machines from
schools, and the Norwegian nutrition council
has recommended a complete ban on junk food
marketing to children.
About half a million children in Europe are
suffering health problems of the middle-aged
such as high blood pressure and raised
cholesterol because they are too fat,
according to new estimates by the obesity
This article is copyrighted material, the use of
which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We
are making such material available in our efforts to advance
understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic,
democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this
constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided
for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without
profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational purposes. For more
information go to:
you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your
own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the