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Ultra-processed food linked to higher risk of mortality: World Health Organization

Ultra-processed food linked to higher risk of mortality: World Health Organization bakery, Beverage, bulk, Carbohydrates and fibres (sugar, confectionery, dairy, Diet and health, Emulsifiers, Fats & oils, food safety, Healthy foods, hydrocolloids, meat, Policy, polyols), Prepared foods, Processing and Packaging, Proteins, Reformulation, snacks, stabilisers, starches), Sweeteners (intense, ultra-processed food, WHO Food and Beverage Business The World Health Organization, ultra-processed food, UPF

In Europe, a staggering 2.7m deaths occur annually due to four major commercial products: ultra-processed food (UPF), alcohol, tobacco, and fossil fuel. The World Health Organization (WHO) attributes almost 7,500 deaths per day across Europe’s 53 states to these products. Globally, the estimate is even higher, with 19m deaths per year, accounting for 34% of all deaths.

In a recent report, the WHO links these products to risk factors such as unhealthy diets and obesity, leading to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes. The WHO aims to expose the ‘deceptive’ practices of these industries in promoting these harmful products.

The WHO highlights the link between unhealthy diets, including UPF consumption, and NCDs. This has been supported by various studies, including the largest study on UPF, which revealed the adverse health outcomes associated with UPF consumption.

The WHO urges European governments to protect the public from harmful products and marketing and shield health policies from industry interference. Stronger regulations are needed to address issues like marketing of health-harming products, monopolistic practices, and transparency in the food and beverage industry.

Food and beverage manufacturers have pushed back against the WHO’s claims, arguing that there is no consensus on the impact of ultra-processed foods on health. They emphasize the importance of focusing on the nutritional components of food rather than its degree of processing in combating obesity and NCDs.

Despite industry opposition, the WHO calls for collective efforts from Member States, civil society, academia, and international organizations to prioritize public health over commercial interests. This long-term effort requires political will to protect future generations from preventable chronic diseases.

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