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Journal editorial: some health organizations are pitchmen for food industry

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The journal of the Canadian Medical Association – CMAJ – published an editorial this week, “Partnerships between health organizations and the food industry risk derailing public health nutrition” (link takes you to pdf file). It was written by an Ottawa obesity expert and by the editor-in-chief of the journal.


“Highly processed, nutritionally deprived and calorie-rich foods tend to be the profit drivers most heavily marketed by their manufacturers. Their promotion and consumption contradict government guidance on healthy food choices and the aims of health organizations fighting an epidemic of childhood and adult obesity. Why then do many health organizations allow their messages and reputations to be tarnished by partnerships with food companies?”

The editorial includes an appendix that itemizes some of the partnerships in question, such as:

• American Academy of Family Physicians & Coca Cola

• American Diabetes Association & Cadbury-Schweppes
• British Nutrition Foundation & Cadbury-Schweppes
• UNICEF & Cadbury-Schweppes
• Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation & Boston Pizza
• The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada & Boston Pizza
• Susan G. Komen For the Cure & Kentucky Fried Chicken
• American Dietetic Association & Hershey’s
• Canadian Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance & PepsiCo

The editorial concludes:

“Obesity is a pressing public health concern worldwide. The epidemic is primarily fueled by the consumption of excess calories, including healthy ones — a message that will not resonate with corporate sponsors. When they partner, health organizations become inadvertent pitchmen for the food industry. They would do well to remember that corporate dollars always introduce perceived or real biases that may taint or distort evidence-based lifestyle recommendations and health messages.”

(Thanks for the tip to Marilyn Mann.)

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Marilyn Mann

February 4, 2011 at 11:21 am

I also recommend Dr. Freedhoff’s excellent blog, Weighty Matters.