EAT Lancet Report: WHO withdraws sponsorship; Italy presses on healthy, balanced diets

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GENEVA, MARCH 25 – The Geneva Launch of the EAT Lancet Commission Report on “Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems” took place today at the Palais des Nations. Co-sponsoring of the event from the World Health Organization, initially announced, was lately withdrawn. However, the Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, Dr. Francesco Branca, took place to the event as a panelist and member of the EAT Lancet Commission.

Notwithstanding the extensive media coverage given to the report, very limited participation was recorded to the presentation event.

Olav Kjørven and Brent Loken, respectively Chief Strategic Officer and Director of Science at EAT Lancet, replied, at the opening of the meeting, to the extensive criticism received by the report since its first launch: in particular, they affirmed that the EAT initiative is not funded by businesses and corporations, but received funds only by the Wellcome Trust. However, EAT is in partnership with other initiatives (like FReSH) which bring together some of the biggest multinationals in the pharmaceuticals, chemical, food and bio-tech sectors. With regard to criticism concerning the low level of scientific evidence of the dietary recommendations of the Commission, panelists replied by affirming that the EAT Lancet report is the first and most authoritative “peer review scientific assessment of planetary food”.

From the Italian side, The Italian Mission in Geneva seized the opportunity to ask to EAT Lancet Commission if the objective is really that – clearly stated at page 478 of the report – of advocating for restrictive measures on consumers’ choice, up to the total elimination of the freedom for consumers to choose in an informed way what to eat (table 6), by withdrawing from the market products considered to be “inappropriate”. The Commission first denied the objective of wanting to eliminate freedom of choice of consumers but later admitted that all options should be explored, depending from the specific operating context.

“It was surprising to witness how little it was discussed about global health and the role of the promotion of healthy diets for the prevention and control and non-communicable diseases: even the Director of the WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development radically changed the narrative, shifting from health topics (which are directly connected to WHO’s mandate) to environmental issues”, the Italian Mission stated on its web site.

Italy will continue following closely the developments of the EAT-Lancet report and the wider debate around promotion of healthy diets, reaffirming in all for a that “a diet is healthy when is varied and balanced, without excluding a priori and demonizing any product an limiting at the same time the total intake of single nutrients and insisting instead on the importance of education and health literacy, on the need for each recommendation to be supported by robust scientific evidence and, also, on common sense”. (@OnuItalia)