This past June, the International Obesity Taskforce (IOTF) and the International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS) held a meeting in Bellagio, Italy to discuss obesity prevention efforts in low and middle income countries.
Attendees at the conference included renowned nutrition experts Dr. Barry Popkin of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (FYI: Dr. Popkin signed our Change.org petition) and Dr. Carlos Monteiro of Brazil, medical surgeon Dr. Simon Barquera of Mexico, and Dr. Susan Jebb (Head of Diet and Population Health at the Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research unit — HNR — in Cambridge).
At this meeting, the 2013 Bellagio Declaration was drafted, which specifically highlights strategies to counter Big Food’s undermining of healthy food policies.
- “We from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Pacific and the Americas, met in Bellagio, Italy, in June 2013, under the auspices of the International Obesity Task Force and the International Union of Nutritional Sciences, to examine the trends in obesity, actions taken, and the barriers to achieving healthy food policies in Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, China, India, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, and the Pacific Islands.
- The influence of Big Food in preventing public policy initiatives was clearly outlined by Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of World Health Organization: ‘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.’”
- * “The limitations of governments include: weak political structures; inadequate transparency, conflict of interest management and accountability in decision-making; low planning capacity; and a lack of willingness to protect public policy development from vested interests.”
- “This Bellagio Conference considered that the actions of Big Food have been the most significant force in blocking public health efforts to promote healthy food policies and reduce obesity in many parts of the world. It calls upon all sections of society to take specific actions to protect its citizens, especially children, and its healthy food environments from Big Food’s misuse of its corporate power to undermine healthy food policies.”
The Bellagio Declaration recommends that civil society organizations “strengthen public interest coalitions to support healthy food policies” and a “demand transparency from governments and serve as a watchdog on Big Food in relation to their impact on government activities.”
Undoubtedly, the issue of Big Food’s negative interference with health and nutrition issues has become a global concern that renowned experts are turning their attention to. Playing ostrich and pretending this is not a problem is no longer an option.