UN Report: the Impact of Unhealthy Foods and NCDs on the Right to Health

Posted by Gabriel Armas-Cardona on June 19, 2014

Last week, Anand Grover, the executive director of Lawyers Collective and the current Special Rapporteur on the right to health released his report on the impact of unhealthy foods and non-communicable diseases on the right to health. In the words of Mr. Grover:

“The culprit is ‘junk food’,” Grover said. “Containing high levels of sugar, salt, trans-fats and saturated fats, this ‘junk’ has unfortunately replaced healthy foods in our diets.”

Primarily responsible for the burgeoning rates of obesity and non-communicable diseases across the world, “‘junk food’ is not a simple public health issue or a medical concern, it poses a serious challenge to our lives, our health and our rights,” the Special Rapporteur added.

The press release from the UN Human Rights Media Unit adds:

According to the UN expert, policies of globalization, market consolidation by transnational companies and supermarket chains, skewed foreign direct investment, aggressive advertising of ultra-processed foods and changes in our lifestyles have driven the social transition to unhealthy diets.

To reverse the obesity epidemic, Grover urged States to implement their human rights obligations, not only by providing nutritious food but also by instituting measures to reduce the burden of diseases linked to ‘junk food.’

In particular, the Special Rapporteur recommended that States formulate multi-sectoral policies with a view to:

1) promoting the availability and accessibility of healthy and nutritious foods;
2) developing food and nutrition guidelines for healthy diets;
3) ensuring that accurate information related to healthy diets is made available, thus allowing consumers to make informed choices;
4) increasing awareness about healthier food options;
5) regulating marketing and advertising of ‘junk food’;
6) adopting consumer-friendly labelling of food products; and
7) establishing accountability mechanisms for violations of the right to health.

The full report is available in all UN languages here.

Gabriel Armas-Cardona is a Legal Officer at Lawyers Collective.