HEALTH WATCH: When Charities collaborate with junk food industry

 
210Views 3Comments Posted 01/04/2016

By Michael Greger MD

WHEN the history of the world’s attempts to address obesity is written, one researcher writes, “the greatest failure may be collaboration with and appeasement of the food industry.”

For instance, Yum! Brands, who own Kentucky Fried Chicken, linked up with a leading U.S. breast cancer charity, to sell pink buckets of fried chicken.

Save the Children, an organization aiming to positively change the lives of children, was initially a staunch supporter of soda taxes. Recently, however, the organization withdrew its support, saying that support of the soda taxes did not fit the way Save the Children works. Perhaps, it is only a coincidence that it was seeking a grant from Coca-Cola and had accepted a $5 million grant from Pepsi.

Through these partnerships, the food industry seeks to emphasize that inactivity — not the promotion and consumption of its calorie-rich products — is the prime cause of obesity. But studies showing that obesity is rising even in areas where people are exercising more are most likely explained by the fact that increases in physical activity levels are being outstripped by our eating activity levels. We can’t outrun our mouths.

As stated by researcher, Bruce Neal, from the University of Sydney, Collaboration with the New Vectors of Disease), “The message is plain – the primary driver of the obesity epidemic in the United States is now the food supply, and interventions targeting physical activity are not going to resolve it.

So, while physical activity is good regardless, it will not address most of the burden of ill health caused by obesity. That is going to require a new focus on the root cause of the problem—the American diet.”

This researcher adds, “At the heart of the ‘energy in’ side of the obesity problem is the food and beverage industry. Put simply, the enormous commercial success enjoyed by the food industry is now causing what promises to be one of the greatest public health disasters of our time. As fast as we rid the world of the microbial causes of pestilence and famine, they are replaced by new vectors of disease in the form of trans-national food corporations that market salt, fat, sugar, and calories in unprecedented quantities. So, policy makers should work on pricing strategies that subsidize the cost of healthier foods.”

First, we need to shift relative prices to make it more expensive to consume animal products compared to fruit, vegetables and beans. Second, we need to increase demand for plant foods, which is not as easy given the hundreds of billions of dollars in annual subsidies – our tax payer dollars going to make animal products artificially cheap.

Dr. Bruce Neal then concludes, “The food industry will rail against the ‘nanny state’ and fight tooth and nail for its right to market a range of options to responsible individuals able to make choices for themselves–it’s the American way. For context though, these arguments are no different to those used by the tobacco industry, which also markets habituating unhealthy products in pursuit of profit. In the case of tobacco, the American people have agreed that controls must be applied to limit the harms caused.

Poor diet is now responsible for an even greater burden of disease than tobacco, and food companies must be controlled in the same way if the harms are to be reduced. As unpalatable as this may be, the food industry would do well to strengthen their public health conscience, given that consumers are always going to need their goods, something that cannot be said for the tobacco industry.” You hear that a lot in public health circles, how we have to work with the companies, because unlike tobacco, we have to eat. But just like yes, we need to breath, but we don’t need to breathesmoke; yes, we need to eat, but we don’t need to eat junk.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on important public health issues. Currently Dr. Gregery is Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

 



Comments 3

user
Jon

People need to consider which organizations they donate money to because many are more concerned with generating money than anything. They are corrupt sellouts.

3 years ago
user
mhogan

Well, we certainly shouldn't eat Swiss cheese -- those holes are caused by carbon dioxide and we let them escape into our atmosphere when we expose them.

3 years ago
user
Richard Charron

When someone wants government to "control" the food we eat I always wonder what their agenda is. This one is pretty clear and easy. Currently Dr. Gregery is Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States. There is the real reason he doesn't want us eating animals. Just what the world needs more government control.

3 years ago
The comments are the responsibility of each author who freely expresses his opinion and not that of Newsroom Panama.
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