Sugar debate

Spiced by developing bloc

Published: Monday 15 March 2004

for the first time, developing countries have objected to a proposal to set the limit of sugar consumption at 10 per cent of total calorie intake for fighting obesity. Earlier, this line was adopted only by the us and other developed countries. The resistance stems from the belief that defining such parameters would have serious implications for the sugar sector and related industries like those of soft drinks and chocolate.

The proposal is part of a report entitled 'Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases', which has been prepared by the World Health Organization (who) and Food and Agriculture Organization (fao). The developing countries also allege that they were not consulted adequately during the preparation of the report. At a recent meeting of the fao in Rome, Italy, to review the report, they challenged its scientific basis contending that it was flawed and "not worthy of serious consideration".

The issue was raised by a Colombian delegation speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing nations (g-77) although it clarified that members of the group had "no predetermined positions" on the issue. India, a g-77 member and one of the largest producers of sugar in the world, has not discussed the issue so far within the country, reveal Union government sources.

At the Rome meet, the g-77 delegation argued that the report had not taken into account the cultural differences among countries while fixing the limit for sugar intake. It also alleged that food items had been branded as good and bad arbitrarily. The developing countries said they would accept the report only if its recommendations do not harm the prevailing food production systems, and food processing and trading practices. The final decision is expected at the World Health Assembly in Geneva in May 2004.

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