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.
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