It's Time to Stop Appeasing the Food Industry, Obesity Expert Says

By Perry, Susan | MinnPost.com, July 10, 2012 | Go to article overview

It's Time to Stop Appeasing the Food Industry, Obesity Expert Says


Perry, Susan, MinnPost.com


If we're going to take the world's growing obesity problem seriously and actually do something about it, governments and public- health officials need to regulate, not collaborate, with Big Food, argues a leading obesity expert in a blistering commentary this month in the journal PLoS Medicine.

"Many political bodies, foundations, and scientists believe that working collaboratively with the food industry is the path for change," writes Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. "The assumption is that this industry is somehow different than others, and that because people must eat, the industry is there to stay, and like it or not, working with them is the only solution."

But this thinking is "a trap," he says.

When the history of the world's attempt to address obesity is written, the greatest failure may be collaboration with and appeasement of the food industry. I expect history will look back with dismay on the celebration of baby steps industry takes (such as public-private partnerships with health organizations, 'healthy eating' campaigns, and corporate social responsibility initiatives) while it fights viciously against meaningful change (such as limits on marketing, taxes on products such as sugared beverages, and regulation of nutritional labeling).

Strong words. But they get stronger:

The food industry has had plenty of time to prove itself trustworthy. It has been in high gear, making promises to behave better, but their minor progress creates an impression of change while larger attempts to subvert the agenda carry on. Witness the massive resistance against soda taxes in the United States and the wholesale attack of marketing standards proposed by the Interagency Working Group. …

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