Make nutrition a public issue to address malnutrition impacts: FAO chief

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A family having a meal in Kyrgyzstan. Photo: FAO/Sergey Kozmin

With malnutrition estimated to cost the world US$3.5 trillion a year, nutrition must be considered a public health issue, the head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Thursday.

José Graziano da Silva was speaking at an international symposium in Rome looking at ways to encourage countries to shift to healthier diets and food systems.

Poor diets are linked to a range of health problems and can perpetuate poverty and stall economic development.

Dianne Penn reports.

Malnutrition occurs when people do not have enough to eat or they are not getting sufficient nutrients which their bodies need.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says one in three people worldwide suffers from some form of the condition, whether through undernutrition or overweight and obesity.

In his opening remarks, FAO chief José Graziano da Silva said “nutrition must be considered a public issue, a State responsibility."

He added that "consumers must be empowered to choose healthy food and diets," for example through accurate food labelling and advertising.

Mr Graziano da Silva pledged his agency's support to help countries adopt what he called "a food systems approach to address all states of the food chain: from production and processing to marketing and consumption."

FAO also announced the appointment of King Letsie III of Lesotho as its newest Special Ambassador for Nutrition.

The agency pointed out that nutrition is also included in the Sustainable Development Goals, which call for both the eradication of hunger and malnutrition.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1'06"

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