Multinational food, drink and alcohol companies are using strategies similar to those used by the tobacco industry to undermine public health policies, say international health experts in the renowned medical journal The Lancet. The authors claim that self-regulation is failing and it’s time the food and drink industries are regulated more stringently from outside.


The researchers write that through the aggressive marketing of processed food and drink, multinational companies have become major drivers of the world’s growing epidemic of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

In The Lancet, the researchers cite industry documents that reveal how companies seek to shape health legislation and avoid regulation. This is done by “building financial and institutional relations” with health professionals, non-governmental organizations and health agencies, distorting research findings, and lobbying politicians to oppose health reforms.

The article also refers to an analysis of published research which found systematic bias from industry funding: articles sponsored exclusively by food and drinks companies were between four and eight times more likely to have conclusions that favored the companies than those not sponsored by them.

In a reaction to the article, Ian Gilmore, special adviser on alcohol to Britain’s Royal College of Physicians said: “Any government serious about public health should in future divorce its public health activities from industry involvement.”

Responding to the study’s criticisms, UNESDA, which represents the non-alcoholic drinks industry in Europe, said that, within the EU, the European Commission had opted to take a “multi-stakeholder approach gathering governments, industry, the healthcare community and civil society to work together to teach people how to eat better, take more exercise and lead healthy, balanced lifestyles”.

According to the article in The Lancet however, this collaborative approach has failed. The authors recommend that, in future, food, drinks and tobacco firms should have no role in national or international policies on chronic diseases. Instead, the article suggests a system of “public regulation” which would focus on directly pressuring industry by “raising awareness of their shady practices and maintaining active public pressure”.

Since the article calls for stronger legislative regulations to curb the irresponsible practices of transnational companies, EUCAM would like to point out the realistic option of implementing a EU-wide comprehensive ban on alcohol marketing. The legal possibilities of which are discussed in this EUCAM Factsheet.

Source: 02/12/13

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