A new report compiled by The Lancet Commission on Obesity is calling for governments to treat red meat and other unhealthy foods the same way they treat the tobacco industry.
The 61-page report, created by 43 academics across 14 countries, is calling for a global treaty to address Big Food – aka dominant, large industrial food producers – in the same way tobacco was addressed 15 years ago with a UN agreement.
Taxes must be placed on red meats – the consumption of which is linked to a number of diseases, including heart disease and cancer – and used to cut the price of vegetables and subsidise schemes that promote healthy exercise, according to the commission. Advertising of unhealthy foods should also be curbed and clearer labels must be placed on foods to make consumers aware, it adds.
Along with fuel, subsidies for farming industries must be cut, notes the report. According to the experts, if the world does not significantly reduce its red meat consumption, there will not only be a health crisis but an environmental one too, caused by animal agriculture.
This claim backs up a recent statement by the United Nations Environment Programme, which claimed that animal agriculture has brought us to the “verge of catastrophe” and named the consumption of meat as the world’s “most urgent problem.”
“In 50 years, if we are not able to reduce this, we will have this incredible scourge of both obesity and undernutrition and the planet will be burning,” said report author Professor William Dietz of George Washington University to the Daily Mail.
The report has received some criticism; Tim Rycroft of the Food and Drink Commission said the comparison between food and tobacco is “deeply irresponsible,” as unlike tobacco, food and drink “are essential to sustain life.”
However, Dietz claims that the kind of food this report is targetting are not essential for human beings to consume.
“Although food clearly differs from tobacco because it is a necessity to support human life, unhealthy food and beverages are not,” he added. “The similarities with Big Tobacco lit in the damage they induce and the behaviours of the corporations that profit from them.”