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CETA could contribute to the epidemic of non-communicable diseases and obesity in Europe

Follow the links below to find out why it’s dangerous

Why could CETA contribute to the obesity epidemic?

Low price is a major driver of consumption of unhealthy food. Tariff reductions from an agreement like CETA could result in processed and other foods that are high in saturated fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) becoming more available to consumers at lower prices.

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CETA will decrease prices of unhealthy food

Almost all existing tariffs on processed food and drinks will be immediately eliminated when CETA enters into force. Tariffs for processed products (‘miscellaneous food preparations’) will for example fall from 12.8% on average to 0%. This could lead to a further decrease in prices of unhealthy food products, high in: energy, saturated fats, trans-fats, sugar, salt and refined carbohydrates. The impacts merit further study and measures to offset any harm to health.

The impact of increased affordability has not yet been studied in relation to CETA. But relative price reduction of unhealthy food and drink is likely to bring negative impacts in terms of cancers, heart disease and strokes, type 2 diabetes and obesity. These conditions not only significantly reduce the productivity of the European workforce, but incur a massive – and avoidable – chunk of health service expenditure, burdening our health systems and services.

CETA may increase the health risks related to high meat consumption

OECD data shows that meat consumption is higher than recommended as part of a healthy diet in both the EU and Canada.

Increased trade of meat products is one of the stated gains of CETA. While data suggests some decreasing amount of beef and pork consumption, increased trade in beef and pork between the EU and Canada could contribute to reversing the trend by adding additional market pressure. Governments should be made aware of the health and environmental impacts of increased meat production and consumption rising from increased availability and affordability of meat products.

There is consistent evidence that high consumption levels of processed meat and red meat are associated with various chronic diseases and an elevated risk of premature death:

● Obesity and Cardiovascular disease
● Type-2 diabetes
● Alzheimer’s Disease
● Cancer

By increasing trade in meat, CETA may well contribute to the excessive use of antibiotics in meat production which is one of the causes of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The livestock sector is also a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change: livestock represented 12-17% of total EU emissions in 2007.16

Research has found a correlation between the rise in overweight and obesity and a country’s integration into globalised food supply chains.

Almost all existing tariffs on processed food and drinks will be immediately eliminated when CETA enters into force.

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Decrease in tariffs for processed products

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Average decrease in tariffs for beef, veal and pork

Why is excessive meat consumption dangerous?

Studies point high consumption of meat to obesity, cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, but also antimicrobial resistance and climate change.

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CASE STUDY: CETA could contribute to the Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) epidemic by making unhealthy food more available via tariff removal

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are one of the principal causes of mortality and ill-health in the European region. Unhealthy diets are directly linked to the development of NCDs and other chronic conditions including obesity.

Research has found a correlation between the rise in overweight and obesity and a country’s integration into globalised food supply chains.

Low price is a major driver of consumption of unhealthy food. Tariff reductions from an agreement like CETA could result in processed and other foods that are high in saturated fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) becoming more available to consumers at lower prices.

“The reduction of tariffs has the potential to result in unhealthy foods becoming available to consumers at lower prices and this could contribute to the Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) epidemic in Europe. The EU should learn from other countries’ experience in order to prevent further increases in overweight and obesity in Europe that might result from trade liberalisation.”

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Gabriel Siles Brügge,
Associate Professor,
Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick

The Unhealthy Side Effects of CETA

The EU recently concluded a new free trade deal with Canada – the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA for short. The deal has considerable side effects for people and public policy making. It has the potential to undermine public health by opening the...