GENEVA (AP) _ The world's health ministers tentatively agreed Friday to an unprecedented plan to fight a growing epidemic of diseases driven by bad diet and lack of exercise.
The plan, which is expected to be formally approved by the governing body of the World Health Organization on Saturday, is a guidebook for countries on designing policies to make people eat better and exercise more.
The ultimate aim is to stem the tide of obesity and other diseases linked to diet and physical activity, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, malnutrition and tooth decay.
The plan, which is not legally binding, sets out recommendations such as the reduction of sugar, fat and salt in processed food; the control of food marketing to children and of health claims on packaging; as well as more comprehensive nutrition labeling and health education.
It also provides ideas on ways to make healthier choices easier at school, work and home. Approaches could range from better urban planning so that walking and cycling become more popular to tying toy promotions in with healthy fast-food meals.
As the Western lifestyle _ full of cheap and tasty food and technology that allows work and leisure to be less physically demanding _ stepped up its invasion of the developing world, the looming threat prompted countries two years ago to direct the U.N. health agency to come up with a global strategy to help them figure out what to do.
There are now more fat people in the world than hungry people, and infectious diseases _ though still a significant scourge in some parts _ are no longer responsible for most of the world's deaths.
The general tone of discussions at the annual meeting of top health officials indicated most countries were eager to move forward on the plan, but it appeared to squeeze through only after late negotiations on the details.
Several developing countries had been fearful that the plan could harm their agricultural industries, particularly their sugar farmers.