IT HAS FUELLED an international slave trade, ignited wars, and set generations of schoolchildren salivating.
Now, a new battle over sugar is brewing, this time between the United States and the World Health Organization (WHO), whose executive board met in Geneva in January to discuss proposed guidelines on diet and exercise intended to help national governments combat the global obesity epidemic.
The board meeting followed the issuance earlier in January by the United States of a detailed and controversial critique of the WHO guidelines. The U.S. criticisms were leaked to the public immediately in advance of the board meeting.
The executive board agreed with the U.S. request for more time to comment on the draft strategy and guidelines. The United States got some support from a few sugar-producing and exporting countries, like Mauritius, on the executive board. But some others (like the European Community, South Africa, Canada and New Zealand) opposed the U.S. position, and supported the draft strategy document and the guidelines.
These will take effect if adopted at the World Health Assembly in May.
The WHO secretariat is expected to finalize the draft before it is presented to the Health Assembly, in the light of further comments it may receive.
Some observers fear that the WHO secretariat might try to accommodate the United States in some way.
Sugar is not the only factor in obesity--high fat intake and lack of exercise also play central roles.
But some WHO scientists and consumer groups say the U.S. objections --notably to recommendations...