A few weeks ago, The Lancet published an article titled “Latin American countries crack down on junk food”, which touched on the obstacles some Latin American countries have faced when trying to implement “healthy food laws”, largely due to Big Food lobbying efforts.
“Chile passed a healthy foods law after a 5-year effort by consumer organisations, academics, and some sympathetic legislators, but the deadline for publishing the implementation regulations passed on July 6, said Cecilia Castillo, a paediatrician who works with a consumer group. “We’re afraid the law may just die”, she says. “The regulations have been difficult because of pressure from large companies.”
The authors make it clear that industry’s role should never be to draft the rules; that should be left up to public health experts:
“Industry representatives must also play a part, not in drafting the rules, but in negotiations about how they will be implemented, said Ekaterine Karageorgiadis, a lawyer with the Alana Institute in Brazil. The institute, which also raises awareness about nutrition, has taken some food companies to court under consumer defence laws.”
And, some encouraging news:
“In Costa Rica, industry lawyers appealed to the country’s Constitutional Court to overturn a law promoted by the Education Ministry, which limited the kinds of food available in schools. “People told us not to take on the big food industry” because of its political and economic clout, says Education Minister Leonardo Garnier. “And the pressure was strong, but both the public and the media played a role in support of the regulations.”
Articles like these touch on why we have such strong concerns about the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ partnerships with Big Food. Time and time again, these companies have used their political and financial clout to block public health policy. Why, then, is a nutrition organization legitimizing these companies’ hollow words and promises?
The Academy should join its public health colleagues in pursuing the very messages and policies Big Food so desperately fights. Giving Coca-Cola, Hershey’s, and McDonald’s a free pass to align themselves with a health organization only helps them cloak their true intentions.