Availability of ultra-processed foods. On June 1st, the World Health Organization’s High Level Commission on Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) urged WHO and its member states to promote public policies to reduce the availability of foods with high content of sugar, saturated and trans fats, and sodium. The commission stressed that the intake of these substances is a problem that produces “billions” of deaths and that the actions taken so far have been insufficient. Although this positioning is not binding on the Organization or the countries that comprise it, the Commission is made up of leading WHO specialists and its opinion will be taken into account at the UN‘s Third High Level Meeting, which will bring Chiefs of State together on September 27th, in order to approve a proposal for regulations in that regard.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom, acknowledged that progress in the implementation of measures against NCDs fell short of expectations due to lack of political will, difficulties in setting priorities and low investment. Consequently, the report proposes a series of measures that States should follow to overcome these problems. In this sense, it recommends improving access to healthy foods and reducing the availability of foods with a high content of sugars, saturated and trans fats, and sodium. To this end, it calls on governments to regulate food and non-alcoholic beverage companies in areas such as reformulation, labeling and the restriction of the commercialization of this type of products, especially in relation to children.
At the same time, the WHO director said that the organization considers the consumption of sugar as a cause of obesity, so that taxes on sugar are of utmost importance to discourage the consumption of unhealthy foods. In addition, the report proposes media campaigns and the reformulation of food products to reduce the consumption of these foods. On this point, the NCD Alliance, the world’s leading organization that brings together civil society, scientific associations and academic institutions working on the subject, regretted that the Commission’s report did not include the tax on sugary drinks, unlike taxes on tobacco and alcohol which it did include.
Heads of State and Government attending the Third High-level Meeting on September 27 are expected to assume political commitments and regulatory measures on high in sugar, fat and salt foods.