Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization, recently spoke at the Global Health Conference on Health Promotion in Helsinki, Finland (here is a transcript of her speech).
Among her talking points: how the food industry consistently gets in the way of public health, and why it is important for health leaders to not only recognize this, but do something about it.
“It is not just Big Tobacco anymore. Public health must also contend with Big Food, Big Soda,and Big Alcohol.
All of these industries fear regulation, and protect themselves by using the same tactics.
Research has documented these tactics well. They include front groups, lobbies, promises of self-regulation, lawsuits, and industry-funded research that confuses the evidence and keeps the public in doubt.
Tactics also include gifts, grants, and contributions to worthy causes that cast these industries as respectable corporate citizens in the eyes of politicians and the public.
They include arguments that place the responsibility for harm to health on individuals, and portray government actions as interference in personal liberties and free choice.
This is formidable opposition. Market power readily translates into political power…
Not one single country has managed to turn around its obesity epidemic in all age groups. This is not a failure of individual will-power. This is a failure of political will to take on big business. In the view of WHO, the formulation of health policies must be protected from distortion by commercial or vested interests.””