July 3, 2012
“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,” according to Kelly Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director, in a commentary on the food and beverage industry for PLoS Medicine.
PLoS Medicine’s three-week series on “Big Food” examines and stimulates discussion surrounding the activities of the food and beverage industry in regards to global health issues. The series adopts a multi-disciplinary approach to exploring the role in health of Big Food, which the journal defines as the multinational food and beverage industry with huge and concentrated market power.
The food and beverage industry has a huge and growing influence on the obesity crisis, but "Big Food" is not met with the same skepticism as other industries that influence public health, according to the journal editors.
Brownell argues in his commentary 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.
“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,” says Brownell. However, he cautions, “There must be recognition that this will bring small victories only and that to take the obesity problem seriously will require courage, leaders who will not back down in the face of harsh industry tactics, and regulation with purpose.”