Food Systems Creating Public Health Disaster

Global food systems are making people sick, and Olivier De Schutter is taking them to task for it. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food warns that current food manufacturing and agricultural practices are causing a public health disaster. In a new report, he writes: “For society, the costs are huge, directly in medical care and indirectly in lost productivity.”

De Schutter cites the culprit as being an “obesogenic environment,” a term public health analysts use to identify the multiple factors that have caused the global obesity pandemic.

Commenting on the report, De Schutter said:

Urbanization, supermarketization and the global spread of modern lifestyles have shaken up traditional food habits….Governments have been focusing on increasing calorie availability, but they have often been indifferent to what kind of calories are on offer, at what price, to whom they are accessible, and how they are marketed.

De Schutter focuses on five of the factors that have led to an obesogenic environment and suggests addressing them by:

  • taxing unhealthy products;
  • regulating foods high in saturated fats, salt and sugar;
  • cracking down on junk food advertising;
  • overhauling misguided agricultural subsidies that make certain ingredients cheaper than others; and
  • supporting local food production so that consumers have access to healthy, fresh and nutritious foods.

While both the food industry and industrial agriculture continue to search for high-tech, high-profit solutions to health, hunger and sustainability issues, De Schutter cautions:

We should not simply invest our hopes in medicalizing our diets with enriched products, or changing people’s choices through health warnings. We need ambitious, targeted nutrition strategies to protect the right to adequate food, and such strategies will only work if the food systems underpinning them are put right.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock


Roger M.
Past Member 3 years ago


Yulan Lawson
Yulan Lawson3 years ago

Some recomendations are not good, for example I don't consider condensed milk to be a substitute for milk, because of all the sugar and I don't support milk anyway because of all the additives and antibiotics that are in the milk, let alone what the cows are eating.

Michael Kirkby
Michael Kirkby4 years ago

Eat natural foods; the other stuff is designed to increase illnesses over time through which the inusrance, drug and medical firms profit from. Of course in the end it is designed to weaken you and your resistance and ultimately reduce surplus population.
It is your individual responsibility to educate yourself; make smart choices and say no to these tainted concoctions. No profit = no product and that's where you come in by not purchasing them.

federico bortoletto

Grazie per le informazioni.

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton4 years ago

Thanks for the article!

Loo Samantha
Loo sam4 years ago


Kerrie G.
Kerrie G.4 years ago

This is a proven fact considering all the people who are developing diabeties these days..

Tim R.
Tim Ra4 years ago

We can scream tax the junk and punish the junk food providers all we want, but a good portion of it is personal responsibility, too. Granted, some changes do need to happen in the industry to help curve the obesity problem. I think we all wonder how it could have gotten so bad, yet we live in the only nation that provides ALL YOU CAN EAT establishments and 24/7 fast-food. That alone should tell you we've failed at personal responsibility when it comes to our eating habits and nutritional health. We need changes, but as American's, we have to be willing to change our habits as well.

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.4 years ago

thanks for the info

Diane Piecara
Diane Piecara4 years ago

The U.S. government subsidizes corn and soy bean production. This results in some foods being substantially cheaper than others. I know people who have full time jobs working at big box retailers who struggle to pay bills. They eat these over-processed cheaper foods that lead to obesity and diabetes out of financial necessity.
Perhaps food companies could be sued like the tobacco industry has been for producing unhealthy products that lead to life-threatening diseases.