But the nature of the problem has also changed. In 1969, the conference focused on hunger and malnutrition and was preceded by prominent lawmakers and media reports drawing attention to severe malnutrition in poor communities. The 2022 conference is expected to be more nuanced, examining the health consequences of diets and the climate effect of food production and distribution.
The food industry is at the center of a system in which diets are closely linked to widespread obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other problems despite efforts to improve them with healthier ingredients, smaller snack and beverage servings, and packaging based on calorie counts.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who co-sponsored the bipartisan legislation to authorize and fund the conference, is wary of the food industry’s efforts. In a Sept. 2 letter to Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice, Booker raised concerns about packaging labels and disclosure of added sugar, high levels of saturated fat, salt or sodium in what he called ultra-processed foods.
Salt and sweetener disclosure
Booker said the current voluntary front-of-package labeling approach isn’t enough and called for the Food and Drug Administration to set mandatory targets to reduce excessive salt and added sweeteners such as sugar to reduce diet-related diseases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 47 percent of U.S. adults 18 and older have hypertension, and 20 percent of people ages 2 to 19 and 42 percent of adults have obesity that can put them at risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Heart disease was the leading cause of death in 2020, and diabetes was eighth, according to the CDC.