The food industry should be regulated: expert

"The obesity crisis is made worse by the way industry formulates and markets its products and so must be regulated to prevent excesses and to protect the public good," writes a leading food expert in this week's PLoS Medicine.

Kelly Brownell from the Rudd Center for and Obesity at Yale University argues that like all industries, the food industry plays by certain rules: "It must defend its core practices against all threats, produce short-term earnings, and in do doing, sell more food. If it distorts science, creates front groups to do its bidding, compromises scientists, professional organizations, and community groups with contributions, blocks needed public health policies in the service of their goals, or engages in other tactics in ''the corporate playbook,'' this is what is takes to protect business as usual."

He argues that left to regulate itself, the food industry has the opportunity, if not the mandate from shareholders, to sell more products irrespective of their impact on consumers so government, foundations, and other powerful institutions should be working for regulation, not collaboration and says: "Respectful dialogue with industry is desirable, and to the extent industry will make voluntary changes that inch us forward, the public good will be served."

However Brownell cautions: "There must be recognition that this will bring small victories only and that to take the seriously will require courage, leaders who will not back down in the face of harsh industry tactics, and regulation with purpose."

More information: Brownell KD (2012) Thinking Forward: The Quicksand of Appeasing the Food Industry. PLoS Med 9(7): e1001254. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001254

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alfie_null
not rated yet Jul 04, 2012
The food industry is motivated by profit. Work with that motivation. Make selling healthy food more attractive, selling junk less attractive. Maybe tax the junk, use the revenue to help pay for the damage inflicted on the rest of us.

Regulation probably would be complex and ineffective. I can imagine weighty tomes of regulations, expensive to produce, expensive to manage (lots of bureaucrats), and expensive to interpret (bias towards large companies, food monocultures). Food producers will become agile at finding/making loopholes (e.g. ketchup is a vegetable). In the end not much accomplished towards improving people's diets.
JJ1002
not rated yet Jul 04, 2012
Nice idea but it has a major draw back. when you do this it forces the producer to raise prices. This makes it harder for the economically disadvantaged to afford these foods. Ok, just give it to them. vicious cycle! Needs more work.
freethinking
not rated yet Jul 08, 2012
Regulation only benefit democrats and large industry. Why? The more regulations the harder it is on small business to produce anything. Big business can then drive small business out of business using Governement as a stick. Democrats benefit because more governement unionized employees paying dues which then goes to help elect democrats. Democrats also benefit because more people will be unemployed and dependant on government, which requires more government workers who happen to be unionized.