To anyone’s who ever said Big Food is the new Big Tobacco: You’re right. Multinational food, drink and alcohol companies are taking all sorts of pages from the cigarette industry’s playbook, say health experts—and it’s seriously undermining public health policy around the world.
In an international analysis (published in the Lancet medical journal), researchers from Australia, Britain Brazil and elsewhere found that so-called “unhealthy commodity” companies like junk food and soda purveyors have a serious hand in health policy decisions. That’s f’d up. According to Reuters (emphasis mine):
… the researchers cited industry documents they said revealed how companies seek to shape health legislation and avoid regulation. This is done by “building financial and institutional relations” with health professionals, non-governmental organizations and health agencies, distorting research findings, and lobbying politicians to oppose health reforms, they said.
They cited analysis of published research which found systematic bias from industry funding: articles sponsored exclusively by food and drinks companies were between four and eight times more likely to have conclusions that favored the companies than those not sponsored by them.
“Regulation, or the threat of regulation, is the only way to change these transnational corporations,” wrote the researchers, led by Rob Moodie from the University of Melbourne in Australia.
Regulation is a scary and loathed word, especially in the U.S. And regulatory bodies often overstep their bounds when it comes to public health (especially in the U.S.). But processed food and drink corporations are now the biggest driver’s of the world’s cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity epidemics. Something’s gotta give.
If this were Marlboro or Lucky Strike we’re talking about, people would throw fits. But because junk food is the cause of death and disease everybody loves, politicians, health organizations and ordinary individuals coddle and make excuses for the food industry.
The researchers concluded that going forward, “food, drinks and tobacco firms should have no role in national or international policies on chronic diseases.” That … should not be a controversial statement. That it is a sad, sad sign of our times, guys.