New York, NY (BBN)– A United Nations human rights expert on Friday called for taxing unhealthy food, regulating harmful marketing practices and standing up to the food industry, urging world leaders not to miss the chance at a summit next week to end a state of affairs that kills nearly 3.0 million adults each year.

“Voluntary guidelines are not enough. World leaders must not bow to industry pressure,” Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier De Schutter said in a statement on the eve of the 19-20 September high-level General Assembly meeting on curbing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and chronic lung disease, which are influenced by modifiable lifestyle risk factors such as the consumption of processed foods.

Mr. De Schutter noted that the globalization of food supply chains means an increased supply of junk food such as energy-rich, nutrient-poor products processed with transfats to ensure a long shelf life – which are particularly attractive to poor consumers because they are cheap – with “dramatic” consequences for public health, affecting disproportionately those with the lowest incomes.

According to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), at least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese, with 44 per cent of diabetes, 23 per cent of ischaemic heart disease and from 7 to 41 per cent of certain cancers attributable these factors.

Mr. De Schutter noted that unhealthy diets are one of the reasons why public health expenditures increased by 50 per cent over the past 10 years in member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

He warned against a failure to act decisively at next week’s General Assembly meeting, only the second ever to deal with health (the first was HIV/AIDS), which at least 34 heads of State and government, 50 other leading government ministers and many specialists are expected to attend.

Outlining the aims of the high-level meeting at a news conference in New York on Thursday, WHO Assistant Director-General Ala Alwan noted that NCDs cause over 63 per cent of all the world’s deaths, with the modifiable risk factors including tobacco, alcohol and lack of exercise as well as unhealthy food products.

BBN/SSR/AD-16Sept11-10:33 pm (BST)