jueves, 4 de diciembre de 2014

Watching our weight: future diets and global public policy.

Conference 10th January at Overseas Development Instite (ODI), London.
Summary by Dr. Gonzalo Palomo.

“Unbalance diet for an unbalance World”. That could the conclusion of last Conference at the ODI in London. In less than 30 years overweight has increased from 250 M people suffering overweight worldwide to 900 M. On the other hand 1 billion human-beings suffer under-nutrition. Steve Wiggins, ODI Research Fellow, summarized the causes focusing on food industry which make fat and sugar cheap and affordable with and increasing presence in main stream media. Dr. Roxana Valdés-Ramos (UNAM, Mexico) highlighted diabetes as the first cause of death and the tenth of morbility in Mexico. Health nutrition illnesses seem to be due to less physical activity, fast food, female out-homes labour and ethnicity. Mexico authorities are pioneer in setting policies about education and how to difficult availability of damaging foods through taxes.

Professor Barry M. Popkin, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, thinks that cultural variations decline then food behaviour is more and more similar globally: more calories, animal source food and refined carbohydrates opposite to less legumes and vegetables intake. Some of his trends are policy driven as well. For instance when South Korea joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO) people passed from mainly home-cooked to processed food and consequently overweight dramatically increased. Professor of Food Policy Tim Lang, City University London, summarized the issue in six points: changes in agriculture production, new policies like CAP, junk food as a “social glue”, public health information, political poor-sensitiveness and, finally, focused on the changing situation nowadays. The problem is the model itself with a lot of external costs and the enormous amount of money we waste in food, which make it an scenario of counter-party interests. As a multiple levels problem it has to be faced through different multi-stakeholders strategies.

Finally, Andrew Opie, Director of Food and sustainability, British Retail Consortium, agreed with almost all the statements addressed previously and recognized that things could improve. Food industry position is more keen on policy-based strategies than volunteer actions from industry unless we want another front of competition with nutrition health as an excuse.