Fast food companies McDonald’s and KFC, and processed food and drink manufacturers such as PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Unilever, and Mars have been invited to assist in the writing of UK government policy on obesity, alcohol and diet-related disease, according to the Guardian.
Health advocates are baffled at the decision by health secretary Andrew Lansley to create five “responsibility deal” networks with businesses, which some say to be the equivalent of handing smoking policy over to the tobacco industry.
- The alcohol responsibility deal network is chaired by the head of the lobby group the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.
- The food network to tackle diet and health problems includes processed food manufacturers, fast food companies, and Compass, the catering company famously pilloried by Jamie Oliver for its school menus of turkey twizzlers. The food deal’s sub-group on calories is chaired by PepsiCo, owner of Walker’s crisps.
- The responsibility deal’s physical activity group is chaired by the Fitness Industry Association, which is the lobby group for private gyms and personal trainers.
Despite the obvious conflict of interest involved, Lansley insists that he’s using the groups as a way to explore voluntary approaches to improving public health.
The notion that excessive consumption of junk food or alcohol can be changed without regulations or price increases might be heart-warming, but it’s not realistic.
Industries aren’t going to throw their full weight behind campaigns designed to convince people to drop their product. Besides, if a friendly PSA or educational pamphlet was all that was needed to convince people to take better care of themselves, it would already be happening.
Professor Tim Lang, a member of the government’s advisory committee on obesity, also doubts the food and drink industry’s ability to regulate itself. “In public health, the track record of industry has not been good. Obesity is a systemic problem, and industry is locked into thinking of its own narrow interests,” Lang told the Guardian.
Image Credit: Flickr - Don Hankins