More and more people are getting sick and dying early of disease and cancer. We all know it — nothing new there.
But despite the fact we all know it, nothing is changing. In fact the situation is still getting worse.
Recent estimates suggest that deaths from non-communicable diseases (such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes) will increase 45% by 2030 – to 50 million deaths per year. Um, the rate is meant to be going the other way isn’t it?
Current strategies to avoid that disastrous fate involve A) educating individuals to make better health choices, and B) working in partnership with the food and drink multinationals to promote health and reduce disease.
While it’s still very debatable whether option A is effective on a national level, an Australian review study published in the Lancet earlier this year highlights the plethora of reasons option B doesn’t work.
The study, from the University of Melbourne, found there to be no evidence of effectiveness nor safety of involving multinational companies in public health promotion. “There is a fundamental conflict – their legitimate role is to make profit, our role is to protect health,” says study leader Professor Rob Moodie. “These companies shouldn’t be around the table when formulating national and international policy.”
The bottom line is there’s a glaring conflict of interest here that can no longer be swept under the rug. Food Industry involvement will always be misleading, and often unethical to some degree. After all, their employees are paid to do one thing – sell more products and maximise profits for shareholders, whatever it takes. Moodie says, “Studies funded by food and drinks companies are four to eight times more likely to make conclusions favourable to the companies than those that were not sponsored by food or drinks companies.” Yep, that’s not just a happy coincidence.
And if you’ve got a spare 13 minutes, Dr Yoni Freedhoff has compiled a few examples of misleading food industry advertisements at their finest.
In fact, what’s happening here is a dazzling re-enactment of regulating the tobacco industry. Once we finally had government regulations in place, smoking rates began to decline. The problem is it took more than 40 years from the discovery that tobacco is bad for your health, to actually regulating against it. Have you seen the movie Groundhog Day? Where Billy Crystal has to live one day of his life over and over again on a constant loop? This is the tobacco industry fiasco all over again- except this industry’s even bigger.
Let’s face it. The only way we’ll see change is to ditch partnerships with the food and drink multinationals and enforce government legislation, regulation, taxes, whatever it takes. NYCs Mayor Bloomberg gets it. And while his soda ban isn’t being enforced (yet), at least he’s giving it a shot.
And if regulations create a “nanny state,”¯ so be it. Giving up a 32 oz soda at the football stadium is a small price to pay if it’ll help someone in need.
Ultimately, this an entirely preventable problem that will not be resolved by the corporate hand that feeds us.