ISLAMABAD: Due to lack of awareness, most Pakistanis are consuming high-energy but low quality food, which is either leading to malnutrition or obesity.
“An increase in the obesity rate is worrisome, as it is a major risk factor to non-communicable diseases, which ultimately adds burden on the health sector and affects economic growth in the country,” Dr Baseer Achakzai, director Nutrition Wing, Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination (NHSRC) said.
While talking to The Express Tribune in connection with World Consumer Rights Day, to be observed today (Sunday), he said that malnourished mothers were giving birth to unhealthy children, which was contributing to an increase in maternal and infant mortality rates as many of them failed to survive.
The theme for this year is “healthy diet”. According to a study published in The Lancet in 2014, Pakistan ranks ninth globally in terms of obesity.
“There is an urgent need to formulate a strategy to discourage consumption of unhealthy diet and to promote healthy eating habits,” Achakzai said.
“The malnutrition statistics in the country are really alarming and call for immediate action from the government and the international community,” he said.
Achakzai further said that currently Pakistan was following outdated 1964 Pure Food Rule, which needed to be updated.
A senior gastroenterologist at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) said that every year in summer there was an outbreak of gastroenteritis in the capital, but so far no serious effort had been made to preempt it.
Buying food from roadside vendors who pay little attention to hygiene, could lead to Hepatitis A or gastroenteritis, he said.
The doctor also said that the people should avoid eating junk food.
Meanwhile, The Network for Consumer Protection Executive Director Nadeem Iqbal said there was a dire need to have a global strategy to say no to unhealthy diets.
The most recent FAO estimate states 37.5 million Pakistanis do not receive proper nourishment.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2015.
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