Should the Government Slap Tobacco-Style Regulations on Fatty Foods?

Jim Mone/AP

If the government wants to make progress in lowering obesity rates, it needs to start regulating fatty foods much the way it does tobacco.

That's the recommendation from a pair of international health organizations pushing policies it says would answer the obesity epidemic.

Specifically, the groups recommend that the government control the way the food and beverage industry advertises, to ensure companies aren't implying unhealthy food is good for children and adults. Additionally, they advise governments to require statements on food packaging about how high or low the content of salt, saturated fat, and sugar is in relation to dietary guidelines. On a broader scale, the organizations call for a reversal of food policy, calling on taxes for unhealthy foods and subsidies for healthy ones.

Consumers International and World Obesity Federation are presenting the global framework this week to the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ultimately, the groups say governments should remove artificial trans fats from all food within five years of their guidelines being adopted.

Much of the policy would face a difficult, if not impossible, path to passage in the U.S. Congress, but the groups did have one suggestion that is already being put into place. The groups recommend that restaurants be required to post calorie information about their food—a requirement already being implemented in the U.S. as part of the Affordable Care Act.

Global deaths related to obesity have risen from 2.6 million in 2005 to 3.4 million in 2010, according to the organizations.

More than 1.4 billion adults are overweight and at risk of negative health consequences, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, according to 2008 statistics from the World Health Organization.

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