Ultra-processed foods and alcohol cause 2.7 million deaths across Europe annually: WHO

More than 7,400 people are dying every day.

16 Jun 2024 04:00pm
Photo for illustrative purposes only - 123RF
Photo for illustrative purposes only - 123RF

LONDON - Ultra-processed foods (UPFs), alcohol, tobacco, and fossil fuels are responsible for the deaths of 2.7 million people annually across Europe, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Experts said "powerful industries" are driving ill health and premature death because they interfere in government policies and efforts to cut cases of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, reported PA Media/dpa.

In a new report, the WHO calls for "strict regulation to curb industry power" and for governments to drive forward health policies which are regularly "challenged, delayed, weakened or stopped" by industry.

WHO said "more than 7,400 people are dying every day" in its European region due to harmful products and practices "driven by commercial industry."

It said: "These commercial products contribute to 24 per cent of all deaths, including significant mortality from cardiovascular diseases (51.4 per cent) and cancer (46.4 per cent)."

Overall, tobacco, alcohol, UPF food, and fuel industries are wholly or partly responsible for 2.7 million deaths per year in Europe, according to the document.

Meanwhile, the global picture shows that tobacco, UPFs, fossil fuels, and alcohol cause 19 million deaths per year, or 34 per cent of all deaths.

Breaking down the data, WHO said 1.15 million deaths per year in Europe are caused by smoking, 426,857 by alcohol, 117,290 by diets high in processed meats, and 252,187 by diets high in salt.

These figures do not even include deaths caused by obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar or high cholesterol level - all of which are linked to unhealthy diets, it said.

The report called on governments to recognize the tactics used by industry - such as blaming individuals, marketing, spreading disinformation, promotions on social media, lobbying and "subverting science" such as by funding research that promotes their goals. -BERNAMA-PA MEDIA/DPA