The World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) has issued a January 25, 2016, report that recommends, among other things, a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), context-specific dietary guidelines, and “interpretive” front-of- pack labeling. Taking “a life-course approach” that focuses on what it describes as an obesogenic environment, the report urges WHO, member governments and non-state actors to implement specific action items designed to (i) promote intake of healthy foods and reduce intake of unhealthy foods and SSBs among children; (ii) promote physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviors; (iii) provide guidance on preconception and antenatal care to reduce the risk of childhood obesity; (iv) support healthy diet, sleep and physical activity during childhood; (v) promote healthy school environments, health and nutrition literacy; and (vi) provide family-based lifestyle weight management services.
In particular, ECHO singles out food and beverage marketing as “a major issue demanding change that will protect all children equally.” To this end, the commission asks member states to implement WHO’s “Set of Recommendations on the Marketing of Foods and Non-alcoholic Bever- ages to Children,” in addition to developing their own regulations on the marketing of complementary foods and beverages “to limit the consump- tion of foods and beverages high in fat, sugar and salt by infants and young children.”
The report also urges consumers to demand that “the food and non- alcoholic beverage industry provide healthy products,” at the same time that it asks government to work closely with the private sector. “Coun- tries need to engage constructively with the private sector to encourage implementation of policies and interventions,” state the report. “Coop- erative relationships with industry have already led to some encouraging outcomes related to diet and physical activity. Initiatives by the food manufacturing industry to reduce fat, sugar and salt content, and portion sizes of processed foods, and to increase the production of innovative, healthy and nutritious choices, could accelerate health gains worldwide.” See The Lancet, January 26, 2016.