Junk food as harmful as cigarettesFoodFacts.com spends a lot of time talking about the harmful effects of bad food. We focus on the dangers of excessive calorie consumption, added sugars in our diet, unreasonable amounts of sodium in food products, and the possible health implications of controversial ingredients. We know that our community feels as strongly as we do about the condition of our food supply and pays careful attention to their own diets. Some might agree that they consider their food consumption just as significant as other healthy habits they incorporate in their daily lives — things like exercise and staying away from cigarette smoking. So if consuming healthy food is just as important as not smoking, it might stand to reason that unhealthy food is just as harmful as smoking a cigarette.

Now, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to food Olivier De Schutter warned that obesity is a bigger global health threat than tobacco use, lamenting that it isn’t taken as seriously as it should be.

A United Nations official called for greater regulation of unhealthy foods, saying junk food is just as bad for global health as tobacco.

Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to food, said the world needs to come together to regulate diet. “Unhealthy diets are now a greater threat to global health than tobacco,” he said in a speech at the opening of the World Health Organization’s annual summit. “Just as the world came together to regulate the risks of tobacco, a bold framework convention on adequate diets must now be agreed.”

De Schutter voiced frustration that the world hasn’t taken obesity seriously enough. “It has been two years since my report on nutrition and the right to food, and ten years since the World Health Organization (WHO) launched its Global Strategy on Diet Physical Activity and Health,” he said. “Yet obesity continues to advance—and diabetes, heart disease and other health complications along with it. The warning signs are not being heard.”

The Special Rapporteur has previously agitated for greater governmental action on junk foods, including taxing unhealthy products, regulating fats and sugars, cracking down on advertising for junk food, and rethinking agricultural subsidies that make unhealthy food cheaper.

“Governments have been focusing on increasing calorie availability,” he said, “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.”

Somehow, consumers have been conditioned to think little, if anything at all, about the possible risks associated with our food supply. Amidst all the new research regarding calories, fat, sugar, sodium and controversial ingredients, it appears that there are consumers who don’t clearly see the dangers that can be involved. If you want to take a look at that, read an internet article regarding unhealthy food and ingredients. Then make sure you read the comments that follow the article. That’s where you’ll find average consumers NOT taking these issues as seriously as they might. You’ll find people wondering what they’re actually expected to eat, saying that risks are overstated as well as consumers who are under the impression that simply because the FDA said something is fine, it really must be. And let’s not forget that there’s plenty of conflicting information out there. Just yesterday, we focused our blog on brominated vegetable oil. Some of the articles written on the topic insist that the amount of this controversial ingredient found in beverages and food products can’t possibly be harmful — even though it’s been found to be bioaccumulative. Confusing?

Maybe the simple statement that junk food is just as unhealthy as cigarette smoking is exactly the kind of message that can clarify the discussion for millions of consumers. The conversation certainly deserves to be advanced.