Naked chef's UN appeal over obesity -

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On eve of UN conference, TV chef Jamie Oliver appeals directly to the Secretary General to help halt the rush to worldwide obesity

19th September 2011 - Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has made a direct appeal to the United Nations Secretary General to help end the global obesity crisis.

Oliver has written an open letter to Ban Ki-Moon on the eve of the high-level General Assembly meeting on curbing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which are influenced by lifestyle risk factors such as the consumption of processed food.

Processed food and drink

He calls on the UN to take urgent action to persuade governments they need to take food education seriously or risk "a global diet of fast and processed food and drink".

The chef and broadcaster has a history of campaigning for better diets with the Jamie's School Dinners series in the UK and Jamie's Food Revolution in the US.

Can't cook, won't cook

Oliver, 36, says: "I have seen young mothers feeding toddlers cola through a feeding bottle because they don't understand good nutrition. I've shown simple fresh vegetables to teenage students in the United Kingdom and America and they can't identify a cucumber or an aubergine or a pear."

"If parents can't cook, how can they feed themselves and their growing families?" he asks.

UN: 'Special summit'

Dozens of heads of state are meeting in New York for two days of talks on tackling cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and chronic lung disease that are linked to lifestyle choices such as tobacco, diet, obesity, alcohol and lack of exercise. The General Assembly meeting is only the second dedicated to health in the organisation's history.

"These are problems that are increasing at a very fast rate in magnitude," Ala Alwan, an Assistant Director-General at the UN World Health Organization (WHO), told a press conference at UN Headquarters, last week. Alwan continued: "WHO estimates that there will be a 17% increase in mortality over the coming 10 years, and the fastest increase will be seen in developing populations, mainly Africa, the Middle East, South-East Asia and the Western Pacific region.

He said that NCDs claimed 36 million lives in 2008.

Salt, sugar, fat

The draft declaration at the UN, which was published earlier this month, calls for the elimination of industrially produced trans-fats in foods, and the implementation of measures to reduce consumption of dietary salt, sugars and saturated fats. It also urges a global increase in levels of physical activity.

Countries will be urged to establish chronic disease policies by 2013.

The high level meeting is being attended by the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley.

Taxing unhealthy food

A United Nations human rights expert has warned that voluntary guidelines on food will not be enough to bring about dietary changes to curb obesity and prevent disease. Speaking ahead of the UN meeting, Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, called for taxes to be levied on unhealthy food products.

"It is crucial for world leaders to counter food industry efforts to sell unbalanced processed products and ready-to-serve meals too rich in transfats and saturated fats, salt and sugars," he said. "Food advertising is proven to have a strong impact on children, and must be strictly regulated in order to avoid the development of bad eating habits early in life."

The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) welcomed the draft declaration. ESC spokesman Simon Capewell, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Liverpool said in a statement: "Two years ago, such a focus would have been unthinkable. Now, the whole summit process has moved preventable diseases right up to the top table. There is now a clear recognition of the scale of the problem and of the need to take action."

19 Sep, 2011

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