The World Health Organisation has held talks with representatives of the food and drink industry to discuss the promotion of healthier eating habits.

Director general Gro Harlem Brundtland said the talks, which were attended by senior figures from companies such as Nestlé, Unilever, Kellogg, Cadbury Schweppes and McDonald’s, were a “positive beginning”.

“We have seen a major shift away from traditional diets, and the increased consumption of energy-dense diets with high levels of fats and sugars, as well as salt. At the same time, the consumption of fruit and vegetables is going down,” Brundtland was quoted by AP Online as saying.

“As a result of all these factors, as well as tobacco use, the global profile of disease is changing. Cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes, respiratory disease, obesity and other non-communicable conditions now account for approximately 60% of the 56.5 million global deaths annually,” she said.

“We would like food companies in some countries to promote smaller portions. We would like to see real moves to cut the amount of fat, sugars and salt in foods. We think consumers have a basic right to know what they are eating and the effects it can have on them. That means clear, informative, accurate and scientifically proven labelling of food products’ benefits or potential harmful effects.”

“And we want food companies to reassess what they are marketing to young children, and how they are going about it,” she added.