News / Health

UN investigator: Unhealthy Food Taxes Vital to Fight Obesity

FILE - U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter (l)
FILE - U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter (l)
Reuters
Unhealthy diets pose a greater risk to global health than the increasingly regulated sale of tobacco and governments should move fast to tax harmful food products, a United Nations investigator said on Monday.

In a statement issued on the opening of the annual summit of the World Health Organization (WHO), Belgian professor Olivierde Schutter called for efforts to launch negotiations on a global pact to tackle the obesity epidemic.

"Unhealthy diets are now a greater threat to global health than tobacco. Just as the world came together to regulate therisks of tobacco, a bold framework convention on adequate diets must now be agreed," he said.

De Schutter, who has held his post of special rapporteur on the right to food since 2008 and earlier headed the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights, reports to the U.N.Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In 2005, a U.N. convention on tobacco control aimed at reducing deaths and health problems caused by the product went into force after long negotiations under the umbrella of the WHO. In a report to the rights council in 2012, de Schutter said a similar accord on food should include taxing unhealthy products, regulating food high in saturated fats, salt and sugar, and "cracking down on junk food advertising."

That report also called for an overhaul on the system of farm subsidies "that make certain ingredients cheaper than others", and for support for local production "so that consumers have access to healthy, fresh and nutritious foods.

"In his Monday statement, issued through the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, de Schutter said any attempts to promote better diets and combat obesity "will only work if the food systems underpinning them are put right.

"Governments have been focusing on increasing calories availability, but they have often been indifferent to what kind of calories are on offer, at what price, to whom they are made available, and how they are marketed. "Such measures, he declared, "are essential to ensure that people are protected from aggressive misinformation campaigns."

You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Try Again
May 19, 2014 3:47 PM
I could have sworn that with 7 billion people, obesity is relatively low on the list compared to malnutrition, poor diet, or hypertension. It can't be that Europe has recently translated data which dictates their population's obesity rates are on the rise that pushed this Schutter to speak up.

Regardless, the path he suggests is foolish at best. Proper education on the effects of food consumption and reducing the stigma of receiving help for obesity issues is all which is required. Imposing a tax (especially as one so broad as to include all food) would:
1) Not significantly alter peoples' eating habits, thus not solving obesity.
2) Harm the food and potentially entertainment industries as people shift a larger portion of their income to purchasing the same food.
3) Effectively "throw away" money through giving it to politicians without giving an explicit purpose to getting this increase of income.


by: Titanium Dragon from: Philomath, Oregon
May 19, 2014 3:35 PM
Obesity is a problem.

Unfortunately, Olivier de Schutter is a big part of it.

You see, Olivier is not a sciencist. He is a man with no understanding of science at all. Just look at this:

"regulating food high in saturated fats, salt and sugar"

What a great idea! Except, wait. Does science say these things are bad for you?

Whoops! Nope, science actually found that NONE OF THESE THINGS MATTER AT ALL.

Salt is not linked to disease; they've found that cutting salt intake actually often leads to negative health outcomes.

Saturated fats are not linked to disease; they've found that fats don't matter.

If you are diabetic, you need to watch what you eat, which means that some sugary foods are problematic for you (but not all of them; it depends on the type of carbohydrate present in the food). If you aren't, then sugar isn't bad for you.

So we must conclude, from a scientific standpoint, that this guy is a crazy person with no understanding of reality and should be immediately fired. He is operating off of false information and promoting bad ideas.

Here's reality. Here's what science DOES know. Three things matter:

Caloric intake.

Caloric consumption.

Essential nutrients.

For most people in the developed world, essential nutrients aren't a problem; the only people who really have to worry about them are vegetarians and vegans. If you don't eat some bizzare diet, chances are good that essential nutrients aren't something you have to worry about.

That leaves caloric intake and caloric consumption. If you want to have a stable weight, these two things need to be the same. If you eat more calories than you burn, then you gain weight; if you eat fewer calories than you burn, you lose weight.

What those calories are is completely irrelevant. Indeed, if it wasn't the case, then it would violate the first law of thermodynamics.

Is junk food bad for you? Not really. Big Macs are actually reasonably nutritious; they provide roughly a quarter of your daily calories (550), a quarter of your daily iron, a quarter of your daily calcium, and 100% of the essential amino acids you need, as well as some other nutrients. That's... actually very reasonable. A Big Mac isn't empty calories at all!

So why do people condemn McDonalds? Well, because they're stupid, really. You can be perfectly healthy eating any food.

The problem is that most people don't get enough exercise. And it doesn't matter WHAT food you eat - be it big macs or spaghetti or apples or peanut butter - if you eat more calories than you burn, you're going to end up fat.

This guy doesn't even understand such basic science.

The fat needs to be sucked out of this guy's head, and someone with an actual grounding in science needs to step in and replace him.


by: Jimmy Weber from: Iowa
May 19, 2014 3:30 PM
Dumb idea. The problem tracks back to elementary schools who are moving away from recesses and PE which was a very natural way to run and play and get lots of exercise. Drop some of the computer instruction and practice and return to more activity for the kids.


by: Jerry L McClure from: USA
May 19, 2014 3:13 PM
Just another way to justify raising taxes and create more regulations (money) for the governments to govern what you eat. Enough of this!


by: TRUTHBTOLD from: MOTHER EARTH
May 19, 2014 3:13 PM
A sad day indeed for the world. Rather than make unhealthy food illegal, they'll just take your money instead and let you get fat. haha. although making it illegal would be an even worse decision. Either way, govt regulation in this capacity is disgusting.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid