The United Nations appears to be attempting to avert a confrontation with sugar processors over its sugar intake recommendations.
UN health and food authorities made a point of saying that their recommendations are guidelines rather than standards requiring compliance. The sugar industry had reacted angrily to news that the UN World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) was going to publish a report recommending that consumers significantly cut back their consumption of foods with added sugars (for further information on the report, click here).
Big Sugar, the lobbying arm of the US Sugar Association, had threatened to urge the US government to withdraw financial support for the WHO, which it funds to the tune of US$400m per year, providing 22% of the WHO’s annual budget.
Jacques Diouf, the FAO’s director-general, is reported by the Financial Times as saying the report’s recommendations on sugar consumption had been taken out of context. “I believe the experts themselves would agree that this recommendation is not meant to be a precise quantitative limit derived from scientific experiments, but the best compromise based on current knowledge,” he said.
“In any case, the recommendation to limit the intake of free sugars is meant to be a desirable population nutrition goal, not a standard to be regulated. Certainly, research will have to continue in all the areas addressed in the report,” he told a conference in Rome.
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Nevertheless, many health authorities, nutritionists and media sources feel the WHO should stick to its guns, believing it is high time more was done to encourage lower consumption of processed sugars.