Big Food Gets Punched by Health Site

Big Food is taking it on the chin in a series on the PLoS (Public Library of Science) Medicine site. The editors have decided it is time to put the food industry under the health microscope.

The PloS “Big Food” series is presenting seven articles examining the food and beverage industry’s impact on health. Guest editors for the series are Marion Nestle of New York University and David Stuckler of Cambridge University.

Nestle, a long-time critic of the industrialized food system, recently wrote, “It’s hard to believe how thoroughly Congress is in bed with the food industry.” Stuckler is a social epidemiologist who has looked at the impact of economic stresses on public health.

Describing their rationale for taking on Big Food, the PLoS Medicine editors write:

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 or major global health funders lecturing on what nongovernmental organizations can learn from Coca-Cola, 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,” offering business acumen and knowledge in food science and distribution, and asserting 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 organizations, 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?

Next: Time to Put Big Food in the Hot Seat

For too long, public health has tiptoed around Big Food. PLoS is pulling back the veil of silence with a series that should be required reading for all health professionals. The first article in the series – “Big Food, Food Systems, and Global Health” – starts by throwing down a gauntlet: “Global food systems are not meeting the world’s dietary needs.” Admitting “that action requires tackling vested interests, especially the powerful Big Food companies with strong ties to and influence over national governments,” the guest editors insist, “we must make choices about how to engage with Big Food.”

The second piece in the series compares the corporate social responsibility campaigns of two industries: soda and tobacco. The authors accuse both of spending heavily “as a means to focus responsibility on consumers rather than on the corporation, bolster the companies’ and their products’ popularity, and to prevent regulation.” In other words, when McDonald’s sponsors the Olympics or Pepsi launches its Refresh Project, their bottom line is profit, not public benefit.

The series is sure to prompt vigorous and important debate. Big Food’s impact on world health has been devastating. This series calls on public health advocates, whether consumers, professionals or policy makers, to wrestle with the issues and insist on change.

The articles will all be accessible on the PLoS Medicine Series on Big Food site.

Related Care2 Stories

Lining the Pockets of Big Food with Food Stamps

Listen, Food Industry and Government: Consumers Want Quality and Fairness

Food Systems Creating Public Health Disaster

We Are Killing the Kids

Disney Says No to (Some) Junk Food Ads

Photo credits: Thinkstock

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Dale Overall

Big food = big profit = big troubles health wise! One can never really trust them!

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado3 years ago

Make and eat your own product.

J.L. A.
JL A.3 years ago

marvelous news--

Vicky Barman
Vicky Barman3 years ago


Angela N.
Angela N.3 years ago


Susan T.
Susan T.3 years ago

You're right Mike C - hell it used to be a free country to own slaves in too, right? Unless you were a slave, that is - then it didn't feel so free.

The point is people don't HAVE a lot of choices. If you don't want to eat meat with pink slime in it, well how do you know how to select it? Other than buying organic, which is often twice as expensive, you have no other choice but to dig in and enjoy that pink slime. And it's only there because it increases profits. We are either not informed at all about what's in our food, or deliberately misinformed.

If you want to buy non GMO foods - well other than buying organic soybean products or organic corn products, YOU HAVE NO CHOICE BECAUSE IT'S NOT LABELED!!!!! And if you think it's easy to avoid non-organic corn, take a look at the ingredients label of about 3/4 of what's in your grocery cart. Corn syrup is in EVERYTHING. And if it's not organic, it's almost certainly GMO.

So yeah - I would LOVE for it to be a free country where people could make their own choices. But that's not what Big Ag and Big Food want - they want us to be pinned in a corner where we don't get the information we want to make choices, and the choices offered to us are tightly controlled so Big Ag and Big Food can continue to make Big Money on low quality food.

Mike Chrissie
Mike Chrissie3 years ago

why can't people make choices, people are responsible for what they eat.

Good old liberals taking away another freedom. Hey liberals, it use to be a free country, free to eat and drink what we want or not. It's the people's choice.

Past Member
Past Member 3 years ago

I believe there are many people eating substandard food-like products because they are government subsidized to keep them cheap. What would consumers say if the subsidies were offered to local farmers who offered whole foods?

Gloria picchetti
Gloria picchetti3 years ago

One day my boss was eating a cone of the latest frozen dessert. I asked him what it was. He said, "Plastic!"

Jennifer C.
Past Member 3 years ago

Thanks for posting.