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WHO DG Brundtland begins dialogue with Food Industry on Diet and Chronic Diseases

Roundtable meeting launches high-level consultation with private sector as WHO prepares Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health for Member States

Director-General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, MD, today hosted the first formal Roundtable meeting between World Health Organization (WHO) and senior executives from the food and associated industries. The meeting, in Geneva, discussed ways the food industry could work with WHO to encourage healthier diets and increased physical activity worldwide.

Describing the meeting as “a positive beginning,” Dr Brundtland said it formally launched what WHO hoped would be an ongoing and constructive high-level dialogue with private sector companies. The Roundtable was attended by about a dozen CEOs and senior executives from companies including Nestle, Unilever, The Coca-Cola Company, The Kellogg Company, PepsiCo Inc., Cadbury Schweppes plc, Compass Group, McDonald's, Yum! Brands Inc., Mizuno Corp, Pentland Group Plc and Royal Ahold N.V.

Cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes, respiratory disease, obesity and other noncommunicable conditions now account for 59 per cent of the 56.5 million global deaths annually, and almost half, or 45.9 per cent, of the global burden of disease. The majority of chronic disease problems now occur in developing countries. Unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use are among the leading causes.

“To effect changes in diet and physical activity poses an enormous challenge,” said Dr Brundtland. “In an increasingly globalized and interdependent world, we believe WHO’s goals can only be met through broader involvement with diverse stakeholders.”

In response to Member State concern, WHO is currently preparing a Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health for presentation to the World Health Assembly in May 2004. The DG Food Industry Roundtable was an important part of this process, said Dr Brundtland. Five WHO Regional Member State consultations have already taken place, with a sixth and final scheduled for June. WHO will be meeting later this month with civil society groups, while consultations are scheduled in June with UN agencies and industry trade associations. WHO will then focus on drafting the strategy, which will be made available for comment by all stakeholders before the end of the year.

For more information contact:

Mr David Porter
Telephone: +41 (22) 791 3774
Mobile phone: +41 (79) 477 1740

Ms Amalia Waxman
Telephone: +41 (22) 791 3353
Mobile phone: +41 (79) 372 9862

Dr Derek Yach
Telephone: (+41 22) 791 2736
Mobile phone: (+41 79) 217 3404