Can the food industry play a constructive role in the obesity epidemic?

Department of Medicine, Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.
JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association (Impact Factor: 29.98). 11/2008; 300(15):1808-11. DOI: 10.1001/jama.300.15.1808
Source: PubMed
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Corporate voluntary pledges to improve the health of Americans have not been held to either explicit measurable outcomes or a framework for independent evaluation. The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF), whose members include 16 of the nation's leading consumer packaged goods (CPG) food and beverage manufacturers, voluntarily pledged to collectively sell 1 trillion fewer calories in the U.S. marketplace by 2012 (against a 2007 baseline), and sell 1.5 trillion fewer calories by 2015. This paper presents the findings of an independent evaluation of the 2012 HWCF marketplace pledge, conducted in 2013. The 16 HWCF companies collectively sold approximately 6.4 trillion fewer calories (-10.6%) in 2012 than in the baseline year of 2007. Taking into account population changes over the 5-year period of 2007-2012, CPG caloric sales from brands included in the HWCF pledge declined by an average of 78 kcal/capita/day. CPG caloric sales from non-HWCF national brands during the same period declined by 11 kcal/capita/day, and there were similar declines in calories from private label products. Thus, the total reduction in CPG caloric sales between 2007 and 2012 was 99 kcal/capita/day. This independent evaluation is the first to evaluate food industry compliance with its calorie reduction pledges and to assess how sales from the CPG food and beverage sector are changing. An accompanying paper investigates the extent to which the HWCF pledge affected household-level changes in CPG calories purchased, controlling for important economic and sociodemographic factors affecting household food purchases over this period.
    American Journal of Preventive Medicine 10/2014; 47(4):508-519. DOI:10.1016/j.amepre.2014.05.029 · 4.28 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Society has imposed strict rules about what constitutes a 'good' or a 'bad' food and 'right' or 'wrong' eating behaviour at least since antiquity. Today, the moral discourse of what we should and should not eat is perhaps stronger than ever, and it informs consumers, researchers and policy-makers about what we all should consume, research and regulate. We propose four types of moralities, underlying sets of moral assumptions, that orient the contemporary discourses of food and health: the 'good' and 'bad' nature of food items, the virtue of self-control and moderation, the management of body size and the actions of market agents. We demonstrate how these moralities influence consumer behaviour as well as transformative research of food and health and develop a critical discussion of the impact of the underlying morality in each domain. We conclude by providing a few guidelines for changes in research questions, designs and methodologies for future research and call for a general reflection on the consequences of the uncovered moralities in research on food and health towards an inclusive view of food well-being.
    Journal of Marketing Management 11/2014; DOI:10.1080/0267257X.2014.959034
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Today we launch a major new series on ''Big Food'' in the PLoS Medicine Maga-zine. Over three weeks beginning 19 June 2012 we will publish seven articles that examine the activities and influence of the food and beverage industry in the health arena. These articles were commissioned by the senior Magazine editor (JC) under the guidance of our series guest editors Marion Nestle of New York University and David Stuckler of Cambridge Univer-sity, and together they represent a multi-disciplinary approach to exploring the role in health of Big Food, which we define as the multinational food and beverage industry with huge and concentrated market power [1]. Industry in health has long fascinated PLoS Medicine but our focus on Big Food is new. Food, unlike tobacco and drugs, is necessary to live and is central to health and disease. And yet the big multinational food companies control what people everywhere eat, resulting in a stark and sick irony: one billion people on the planet are hungry while two billion are obese or overweight [2]. The time is ripe for PLoS Medicine to shine a light on Big Food. Foremost, large food and beverage companies now have an undeniably influential presence on the global health stage. Whether it's food company executives providing expertise at major conferences and high-level UN meetings (e.g., [3]) or major global health funders lecturing on what nongovernmen-tal organizations can learn from Coca-Cola [4], the perspectives and experiences of Big Food are shaping the field of global health. At the same time that their expertise is elevated in global health debates, food companies are rebranding themselves as ''nutrition companies,'' of-fering business acumen and knowledge in food science and distribution, and assert-ing authority over solutions to problems not just of food production but of malnutrition, obesity, and even poverty. The legitimization of food companies as global health experts is further fueled by the growing number of private-public partnerships with public health organiza-tions [5], ostensibly designed to foster collaborative action to improve people's health and wellbeing. And yet food companies' primary obligation is to drive profit by selling food. Why does the global health community find this acceptable and how do these conflicts of interest play out? Indeed, while problems of obesity and associated disease are dominating discus-sions and debates in health around the world, there's a concomitant gulf of critical perspectives on the food industry's role and competing interests. Despite PLoS Medicine's longstanding interest in the tobacco, pharmaceutical, and other indus-tries in health, for example, we have paid relatively little attention to the activities and influence of food and beverage companies: just two articles in 2007 [6,7] and a recent editorial on the alcohol industry [8]. Searching PubMed, only an additional seven articles examining any aspect of the food industry have been published in the major general medical journals over the past 10 years. According to Marion Nestle, these issues have been known and discussed (though not always acted upon) within the nutrition community for decades, which makes the lack of attention in the medical literature even more disappointing. In fact, Nestle's 2002 book Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health is prescient in documenting a laundry list of Big Food misdeeds that are only receiving more widespread attention now: aggres-sive lobbying of regulators and govern-ments, co-opting domestic and interna-tional nutrition experts, deceptive and illegal marketing to children, tactical targeting of minorities and emerging economies, and undisclosed conflicts of interest, among others, resulting in her conclusion 10 years ago that the food industry ''plays politics better than any-one'' [9]. More recent evidence confirms that Big Food and Big Alcohol are mimicking (and learning from) the tactics of Big Tobacco [8,10–13]. In recognition, a bold move by Journal of Public Health Policy discourages studies of individual eating and activity [14,15] because, as the editors state, they ''have come to believe that research studies concentrating on personal behavior and responsibility as causes of the obesity epidemic do little but offer cover to an industry seeking to downplay its own responsibility.'' The PLoS Medicine series on Big Food is a ''sampler,'' offering perspectives on select topics relevant to how the food industry operates in health. In this first week the guest editors lay out a back-ground and three competing views of how public health professionals can respond [1], and Lori Dorfman and her colleagues [16] compare soda companies' corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaigns with those of the tobacco industry, demonstrat-ing how CSR deftly shifts responsibility for overconsumption from corporations to individuals, forestalls regulation, and
    PLoS Medicine 06/2012; 9(6). DOI:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001246 · 14.00 Impact Factor


1 Download
Available from