The journal PLoS Medicine has begun to publish a series of articles – “a multidisciplinary approach to exploring the role in health of Big Food, which we define as the multinational food and beverage industry with huge and concentrated market power.” Excerpt of an editors’ note:
“The time is ripe for PLoS Medicine to shine a light on Big Food. 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?
Indeed, while problems of obesity and associated disease are dominating discussions and debates in health around the world, there’s a concomitant gulf of critical perspectives on the food industry’s role and competing interests. Despite PLoS Medicine‘s longstanding interest in the tobacco, pharmaceutical, and other industries in health, for example, we have paid relatively little attention to the activities and influence of food and beverage companies.”
Here are links to two pieces: