Eve Crowley, who is in Montevideo to present a book commemorating FAO's 68 years in Uruguay, described the current situation in the region in an interview with EFE on Saturday.
"(Hunger) is a really worrying trend because, after undernourishment and hunger had declined for decades in that region and around the world, we're now seeing an increase," she said. "In the Latin American and the Caribbean region there are now 39 million people suffering from hunger."
On the other end of the spectrum levels of obesity and overweight also are elevated in the region and ascend to as high as 65 per cent of the population in Uruguay, compared to 60 per cent for the region as a whole.
"We have a target of ... eradicating malnutrition in all of its forms, and currently one of its expressions is that in many countries there's a combination of simultaneous problems - not only in the country, (but) at times in the home and at times in the same person," she said, noting that undernourishment occasionally goes hand in hand with overweight and obesity and micronutrient deficiency.
Regarding the high level of meat consumption in the region, although the FAO promotes and recognizes the importance of that food group, the expert expressed concern that animal protein is being consumed in excess at the expense of fruit and vegetables.
"The use of antibiotics in the production chain of meat and fish is a very big source of concern for the FAO, Pan American Health Organization, World Health Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health because we know that in 2050 antimicrobial resistance will be the biggest cause of death in the world, ahead of cancer and noncommunicable diseases," Crowley added.
She said it is very important for governments to levy taxes on unhealthy foods and to incentivize the consumption of fruits, vegetables and fish, as well as to promote family farming and educational campaigns such as the latest nutritional guide released by Uruguay's Health Ministry.
"If governments don't take action now, they're going to pay with (heavy burdens on) their public health systems, something that's already happening with the spending of millions of dollars to alleviate noncommunicable diseases," Crowley said.
( With inputs from IANS )