According to a joint World Health Organization (WHO)/Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) news release, the ministers and senior officials of 170 countries convening in Rome have adopted a Framework for Action and a Declaration on Nutrition. Opening the Second International Conference on Nutrition, WHO Secretary General Margaret Chan reportedly criticized the production of what she characterized as less healthy industrialized food and called attention to the consequences of its contribution to obesity and overweight along with the emergence of diabetes, cancers and heart disease.

The commitments and recommendations set forth in the framework and declaration are intended to ensure “that all people have access to healthier and more sustainable diets.” They also commit the governments to prevent malnutrition “in all its forms, including hunger, micronutrient deficiencies and obesity.” Among other matters, governments are urged to “educate and inform their citizens about healthier eating practices” and reinforce obesity initiatives “by the creation of healthy environments that also promote physical activity from a young age.” Governments are asked to “encourage a reduction in trans fats, saturated fats, sugars and salts in foods and drinks, and improve the nutrient content of foods through regulatory and voluntary instruments.”

The countries have recommended that the U.N. General Assembly endorse the Declaration and Framework and “consider declaring a Decade of Action on Nutrition for 2016-2025.” See Joint WHO/FAO News Release and Prensa Latin News Agency, November 19, 2014.

Meanwhile, the McKinsey Global Institute has issued a report titled “Overcoming obesity: An initial economic analysis” that calls obesity “a critical global issue, requiring a comprehensive intervention strategy rolled out at scale.” According to the report, more than 2.1 billion people, or nearly 30 percent of the global population, are overweight or obese, and obesity is responsible “for about 5 percent of all deaths worldwide.” It calls for a systemic, sustained portfolio of initiatives to address the problem, including education, personal responsibility, reductions in default portion sizes, changed marketing practices, and restructured urban and educational environments to foster physical activity. It also recommends engagement from multiple sectors, such as governments, retailers, food and beverage companies, restaurants, employers, the media, educators, and health-care providers. Among the 74 specific recommendations are a number that would require regulation, including food labeling, advertising restrictions, and changes in taxes and agricultural subsidies.