Ultra-processed foods, alcohol, tobacco, pollution kill 2.7M Europeans annually

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By Creative Media News

  • WHO: Industries kill 2.7M Europeans annually
  • Call for stricter regulation of harmful industries
  • Critics label WHO report as ‘half-baked Marxism’

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that ultra-processed foods, alcohol, tobacco, and fossil fuels kill 2.7 million people in Europe each year.

Experts claim that ‘powerful industries’ are causing illness and early death by interfering with government policies and efforts to reduce cases of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Critics, however, dismissed the assertions as ‘half-baked Marxism’ and accused the WHO of advocating for a ‘nanny state’. 

The WHO calls for “strict regulation to reduce industry dominance” in its most recent report, and it urges governments to advance health initiatives that industry frequently “challenges, delays, weakened, or stops.

According to the WHO, about 7,400 people die every day in Europe due to dangerous products and practices ‘driven by the commercial business.

These commercial items contribute to 24 percent of all deaths, including significant mortality from cardiovascular illnesses (51.4 percent) and cancer (46.4 percent),’ the report stated. 

According to the paper, the tobacco, alcohol, UPF food, and gasoline industries are directly or indirectly responsible for 2.7 million deaths in Europe each year.

Meanwhile, the worldwide picture shows that tobacco, UPFs, fossil fuels, and alcohol kill 19 million people each year, accounting for 34% of total mortality.

The WHO reports that smoking causes 1.15 million fatalities in Europe annually, alcohol causes 426,857, processed meat diets cause 117,290, and salt-rich diets cause 252,187.

The report stated that these estimates do not include mortality due to obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or high cholesterol, all of which are associated with poor diets.

The report urged governments to identify industry techniques such as individual blaming, marketing, disinformation propagation, social media promotions, lobbying, and subverting science by sponsoring research that aligns with their objectives.

According to the WHO, the primary objective of all significant firms is profit, and having a large market share “often translates into political power.”

It went on to say: “Regardless of the product they sell, their (industry) interests do not align with either public health or the broader public interest.”

Any policy that may have an impact on their sales and earnings is a threat, and they should not participate in its formulation.

But Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, condemned the evidence as ‘absurd’.

He asserted that people have been using products like alcohol, tobacco, and salt for thousands of years and would continue to do so even if international firms vanished tomorrow. It is entirely up to them.

‘This is far-left political activism disguised as a public health study.

‘The writers are expressly opposed to the market economy and trade liberalization, concluding that the remedy is to “rethink capitalism.”

‘They argue that “consumers do not have the capacity (time or resources) to make the right choice” and that the government should therefore make their choices for them, utilizing the whole apparatus of the nanny state.

The WHO’s publication of this half-baked Marxism in its name is a sad indictment of the organization.

Julian Braithwaite, president and CEO of the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking, stated, “This report mischaracterizes our sector, fails to recognize the significant progress made in reducing harmful drinking across Europe, and contradicts WHO and UN member state mandates for the private sector to play a role in further reducing harm alongside the public sector and civil society.”

The research stated that, with the exception of tobacco regulations, ‘global efforts to limit harmful marketing have, at best, been lackluster’.

It added: “While legal measures regulating alcohol and unhealthy food marketing exist in several countries across the WHO European region and around the world, these are often narrow in scope, focusing on specific media or settings, certain population groups, or specific marketing techniques, and thus confer insufficient protection.

Furthermore, the WHO stated that voluntary regulations that allow industry to self-regulate are unsuccessful.

Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, stated, “Four industries kill at least 7,000 people in our region every day.”

The same large commercial entities oppose regulations that would protect consumers from dangerous products and marketing, as well as industry intervention in health policy.

‘Industry techniques include exploiting vulnerable people through targeted marketing strategies, misinforming consumers, and making false claims about the benefits of their products or environmental credentials.

‘These strategies jeopardize public health advances made over the last century and prevent governments from meeting their health targets.’

“For too long, we have considered risk factors primarily linked to individual choices,” said Belgian deputy prime minister Frank Vandenbroucke, who launched the study.

‘We need to reframe the problem as a systemic one, where policy must counter “hyper-consumption environments,” control marketing, and end intervention in policymaking.’

In the United Kingdom, the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, which would restrict vape marketing to minors and prohibit children from starting to smoke, failed to pass Parliament before it was dissolved for the general election.

There has also been a delay in plans to combat the advertising of high-fat, sugary, or salty foods.

The government has already pushed back the proposal, which is a component of its anti-obesity agenda for England, to October 2023.

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Downing Street has now announced a postponement until October 2025 as the government considers the impact on consumers and businesses.

Kendra Chow of the World Cancer Research Fund, who contributed to the report, stated: “This hard-hitting report gives further insight into how health-harming industries, including alcohol and unhealthy foods and beverages, are negatively impacting global health and increasing rates of noncommunicable diseases, including cancers.”

‘Our research suggests that consuming a variety of plant-based meals, as well as whole grains, fruits, and pulses, and reducing alcohol use, are effective approaches to lowering your cancer risk.’

According to this evidence, a healthy environment is required. We must consequently prioritize public health over profits and shield marketing, labeling, dietary guidelines, trade regulations, and product formulation from industrial influence.

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