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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More