|FAO Representative in Vietnam Albert Lieberg speaks at the meeting in Hanoi
“An unhealthy diet has become one of the leading causes of death from non-communicable diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. It is high time for us all to start thinking about what we eat and how it equally serve not only ourselves but also the fauna, the water, the soil, the air and the existential resources of our planet,” said Albert Lieberg.
The FAO representative said unhealthy diets, combined with sedentary lifestyles, have sent obesity rates soaring, not only in developed countries but also in middle and low-income countries, where hunger and obesity often coexist.
“Now, while over 800 million people suffer from hunger, more than 670 million adults and 120 million girls and boys (from 5 to 19 years of age) are obese. Every year, health problems linked to obesity and malnutrition are costing national health budgets up to 2 trillion USD.”
He said that besides the harm to human health, dietary changes also contributed substantially to environmental degradation and climate change.
Research showed environmental damage caused by the food system could increase 50 to 90 percent, due to increased consumption of processed food, meat and other animal-sourced products. A rapid loss of biodiversity is related to intensified and unsustainable food production, combined with climate change.
“This year's World Food Day is a call with urgent action across sectors to make healthy diets available and affordable to everyone,” said Lieberg.
“We need to be health-conscious and change our eating habits. We can start with learning to understand the nutrition labels, becoming critical consumers and being more aware of the impacts that the foods we eat have on the environment and on our health,” he added.
On the occasion, the Ministry of Health also launched a campaign 'Nutrition and Development Week' from October 16-23, to respond to World Food Day and call on the population to have proper nutrition and healthy diets.
Speaking at the event, the health ministry’s Preventive Medicine Director Tran Dac Phu said Vietnam faces the double burden of malnutrition and obesity along with non-communicable diseases related to nutrition and lifestyle, especially in urban areas.
“To handle the situation, we need to improve our knowledge to have the right nutrition practices, change unhealthy lifestyles and eating habits to a healthy diet and maintain a positive and active lifestyle to bring the best nutritional and health status to everybody,” said Phu.
World Food Day, October 16, is an initiative of the FAO since 1979. Since then, World Food Day has been celebrated annually in more than 150 countries and territories, aiming to raise awareness of poverty and hunger issues, and rational use of food and foodstuffs.