WHO blames 4 major industries for 2.7 million deaths a year in Europe

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Last reviewed: 14.06.2024

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12 June 2024, 13:56

The WHO has blamed four major industries - tobacco, ultra-processed foods (UPF), fossil fuels and alcohol - for 2.7 million annual deaths in Europe, accusing them of obstructing public policies that could harm their profits.

“These four industries kill at least 7,000 people in our region every day,” said Hans Kluge, director of the World Health Organization's European region, which includes 53 countries including Central Asia, in a statement.

The consolidation of these industry sectors into a small number of multinational companies "has enabled them to exert significant influence over the political and legal contexts in which they operate and to prevent public interest regulation that could impact their profit margins," the WHO report said.

Industry tactics included exploiting vulnerable people through targeted marketing strategies, misleading consumers and making false claims about the benefits of their products or their environmental credentials, the organization said.

“These tactics threaten the public health gains of the past century and prevent countries from achieving their health goals,” the WHO added.

Industry lobbying has hampered efforts to combat noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes, WHO said.

According to WHO, almost 60 percent of adults and a third of children in Europe are overweight or obese.

Latest data for 2017 showed that one in five deaths attributed to cardiovascular disease and cancer in Europe was the result of unhealthy eating habits.

WHO called on countries to combat this by strengthening regulation of unhealthy food marketing, monopolistic practices and lobbying.

"People must always come first before profit," said Kluge.

The report "Commercial determinants of noncommunicable diseases in the WHO European Region" is available on the WHO website.

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