U.N.-Approved Global Pact for Tackling Nutrition- and Alcohol-related Diseases is Strong on Awareness, Timid on Action

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U.N.-Approved Global Pact for Tackling Nutrition- and Alcohol-related Diseases is Strong on Awareness, Timid on Action

NEW YORK (September 19, 2011)—A consortium representing thousands  of non-profit public health advocacy groups made the following comment on the “Political Declaration” of the “High Level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases” at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on September 19-20, 2011, approved unanimously at 10:04 a.m. today.  (Following several months of negotiation, U.N. officials recently added several hours to the plenary session to accommodate a high level of interest by world leaders and other top government officials to speak to the issue in the Assembly Hall.) 

The U.N. Political Declaration shows that governments world-wide have achieved a much better understanding of the extent to which poor nutrition and excess alcohol consumption worsen public health, weaken workforce productivity, and drive-up expensive treatment-intensive costs related to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.  Leaders also acknowledged that prevention must be a cornerstone of global and national responses to NCDs.  Such newly acquired top-level awareness is, alone, a great achievement, but a clear commitment to implement prevention policies is still missing. 


Effective public policy reform is the first casualty of timid “partnering” with companies that make products that contribute to an increase in disease risks or products that treat disease symptoms.  To their credit, governments agreed that tobacco companies should have no place at the table, but  risk trusting multi-trillion dollar global purveyors of alcohol, junk food, and pharmaceutical drugs to voluntarily change their for-profit stripes.  Governments cannot continue to allow conflicts of interest with the private sector to go unchallenged and unmanaged in the policy-making process. An ethical code of conduct is needed to guide interactions with the private sector, which we must not forget is answerable primarily to shareholders and not to public health.


The Political Declaration is silent on specifics and short on solid commitment to regulations that could, for example:


·         Mandate salt and sugar reduction in high-salt and high-sugar processed foods;

·         Realign food VAT/GST policies for food and agricultural subsidies with sound nutrition science;

·         Mandate easy-to-understand front-of-pack nutrition labelling;

·         Mandate nutrition information (e.g., sodium and calories) on restaurant menus;

·         Prohibit the use of trans-fat laden partially hydrogenated oils in food;

·         Protect children and young people from marketing of products that raise the risk of disease (e.g. banning the promotion of breast-milk substitutes and high-fat, -sugar and -salt foods to children and young people); and

·         Prohibit advertising and brand sponsorship for alcohol beverages;

·         Increase taxes on alcohol beverages;

·         Require and enforce effective restrictions on impaired driving (such as random breath testing),and  minimum purchase age; and

·         Expand nutritious school meal programs.


The Political Declaration reinforced its support for the World Health Organization’s landmark Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,  and also called for the protection of breastfeeding and implementation of the Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, (1) but defers much of the job of addressing nutrition and alcohol to future work of WHO technical experts, Member States, and future U.N. meetings. Work left undone includes:

·         developing tools to navigate the trade law barriers to health policy innovation,

·          establishing workable, but energetic disease reduction targets and detailed policy implementation schedules, and

·         vitally, instituting a mechanism to keep commercially self-interested parties at arms-length and public-interest groups constructively involved.




Note to editors:  The statement of the Conflict of Interest Coalition can be found at http://cspinet.org/canada/pdf/conflict-of-interest.pdf   The final “Political Declaration”  http://www.who.int/nmh/events/un_ncd_summit2011/political_declaration.pdf will soon be issued in the six officials languages of the United Nations.  The Meeting’s program agenda can be found at   http://cspinet.org/canada/pdf/summit-information-note-9-sept-2011.pdf 


1 (i) Promote, protect and support breastfeeding, including exclusive breastfeeding for about six months from birth, as appropriate, as breastfeeding reduces susceptibility to infections and the risk of undernutrition, promotes infant and young children’s growth and development and helps to reduce the risk of developing conditions such as obesity and non-communicable diseases later in life, and, in this regard, strengthen the implementation of the international code of marketing of breast milk substitutes and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly resolutions;

Spokesperson Contact Information in New York City


Centre for Science in the Public Interest, Canada (CSPI-Canada) is an independent health advocacy organization with offices in Ottawa and Washington.  CSPI's advocacy efforts are supported by more than 100,000 subscribers to the Canadian edition of its Nutrition Action Healthletter, on average, one subscribing household within a one block radius of every Canadian street corner.  CSPI does not accept industry or government funding and Nutrition Action does not carry advertisements. Contact Point in New York City: Bill Jeffery, LLB, National Coordinator, Mobile/Text: 1-613-565-2140; bjeffery@cspinet.ca ; Skype at: billjeffery2447337; http://www.cspinet.org/canada/foodstrategies.html Follow me this week on Twitter at BillJefferyCSPI


Consumers International (CI) is the only independent global campaigning voice for consumers. With over 220 member organisations in 115 countries, we are building a powerful international consumer movement to help protect and empower consumers everywhere. Contact point in New York: Indrani Thuraisingham, CI’s head of Asia Pacific and the Middle East.  Mobile +601 2205 2277. E-mail indrani(at)ciroap.org

Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA) is a developing network of non-government organizations and people working in public health agencies that share information on alcohol issues and advocate evidence-based alcohol policies.  Contacts in New York: Derek Rutherford: drutherford@ias.org.uk, mobile +44-7710235164; Dr. Sally Casswell, Chairperson of the Scientific Advisory Panel: s.casswell@massey.ac.nz, mobile +64-21655346  Øystein Bakke, Secretary: oystein.bakke@forut.no ; mobile +47-41622135; and George Hacker, ghacker@cspinet.org, mobile +1-202-746-9210.


International Association for Consumer Food Organizations (IACFO) is an association of non-governmental organizations that represent consumer interests in the areas of nutrition, food safety, and related food policy matters.  IACFO was formed in 1997 to increase consumer representation in the debate over the global food trade and to work with international agencies responsible for harmonizing standards related to the production, distribution, and sale of foods.  IACFO regularly participates, as a recognized observer, in meetings of committees of the Codex Alimentarius Commission and meetings convened by the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.  IACFO’s members also represent consumer interests before government regulatory agencies on five continents and release reports examining current nutrition policy and food safety issues.  Contact Point in New York: See info, below, for CSPI and IBFAN.


International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO) is a not-for-profit  organisation linking over 50 regional and national associations with over 10,000 professional members in scientific, medical and research organisations.  It is an umbrella organisation for 52 national obesity associations, representing 56 countries.  Its mission is to improve global health by promoting the understanding of obesity and weight-related diseases through scientific research and dialogue, whilst encouraging the development of effective policies for their prevention and management.  Contact in New York:  Shiriki Kumanyika, PhD, MPH at skumanyi@mail.med.upenn.edu ; mobile: 1-267-252-1642


International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) consists of public interest groups working around the world to reduce infant and young child morbidity and mortality. IBFAN aims to improve the health and well-being of babies and young children, their mothers and their families through the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding and optimal infant feeding practices. IBFAN works for universal and full implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitute and Resolutions.  Contact Point in New York City: Patti Rundall at prundall@babymilkaction.org; mobile: 44-0778-6-523493.  website: http://info.babymilkaction.org/node/458


National Heart Forum (NHF-UK) is a leading charitable alliance of 70 national organisations working to reduce the risk of avoidable chronic diseases—coronary heart, disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, respiratory disease, and cancer.  Our purpose is to co-ordinate public health policy development and advocacy among members drawn from professional representative bodies, consumer groups, voluntary and public sector organisations. Contact in New York:  Paul Lincoln mobile +44 7946 433215; paul.lincoln@heartforum.org.uk  Skype: paul.lincoln; Modi Mwatsama: mobile +44 7941 694995; modi.mwatsama@heartforum.org.uk ; Skype: modi.mwatsama  Follow me this week on twitter at ModiMwatsama

World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF International) Working with leading research scientists, policy makers and health professionals, WCRF International is committed to making cancer prevention a reality.  It is the not-for-profit umbrella association that leads and unifies our WCRF global network of cancer charities dedicated to funding research and education programmes into the link between food, nutrition, physical activity, weight maintenance and cancer risk. The national charities are based in the US, UK, Netherlands, Hong Kong and France.  WCRF International was created to maximise the potential of each national member, and by building a network of cancer charities, strengthen the global cancer prevention message. With the belief that greater impact can be achieved when allied organisations work together, WCRF International operates to ensure that each of its charities is in a stronger position than if it were operating in isolation.  Contact Point in New York: Kate Allen, PhD at k.allen@wcrf.org; mobile: 44-07766-600-940. Follow us on Twitter at WCRFInt