Nestlé candies from Brazil. Credit.
A New York Times examination of corporate records, epidemiological studies and government reports — as well as interviews with scores of nutritionists and health experts around the world — reveals a sea change in the way food is produced, distributed and advertised across much of the globe. The shift is contributing to a new epidemic of diabetes and heart disease, chronic illnesses that are fed by soaring rates of obesity in places that struggled with hunger and malnutrition just a generation ago. “What we have is a war between two food systems, a traditional diet of real food once produced by the farmers around you and the producers of ultra-processed food designed to be over-consumed and which in some cases are addictive,” said Carlos A. Monteiro, a professor of nutrition and public health at the University of São Paulo. “It’s a war,” he said, “but one food system has disproportionately more power than the other.” Watch a Times video of the story.
Food and beverage product reformulation is a public health nutrition policy of recent prominence; it is a so-called ‘win-win’ policy, as unlike other nutrition policies, it has the potential to also benefit the food and beverage industry. This study investigates how and why reformulation became a public health initiative by conducting a framing analysis on 278 US newspaper articles from 1980 to 2015. Three primary frames of reformulation were identified: business, health, and political. The political frame of reformulation grew in importance after 2001, to describe reformulations occurring in response to public health policy initiatives aimed at obesity and noncommunicable diseases. The increasing use of a political frame suggests that voluntary reformulation followed a growing threat of policy change and litigation facing the industry, a finding that provides important context to debates about voluntary reformulation initiatives.
Scott C, Nixon L. The shift in framing of food and beverage product reformulation in the United States from 1980 to 2015. Critical Public Health. 2017 Jun 7:1-3.
The Food and Drug Administration has filed court papers in support of an effort to overturn a New York City law requiring calorie counts to be posted by certain establishments, reports The New York Times, at least the second time the Trump administration has inserted itself into a local case. The plaintiffs have asked a judge to grant an injunction to keep the city from enforcing the law, which it plans to start doing on August 21. In response, New York City Health Commissioner Mary Bassett observed, “The F.D.A. has taken the position that chains can stop providing customers with critical nutrition information. Poor nutrition is fueling an epidemic of chronic diseases, and this basic information should be accessible and transparent to all.”
Trade agreements are increasingly recognized as playing an influential role in shaping national food environments and the availability and nutritional quality of the food supply. Using the INFORMAS trade monitoring protocol, investigators reviewed available food supply data to understand associations between Fiji’s commitments under WTO trade agreements and food import volume trends. The study suggests that Fiji’s WTO membership, in conjunction with associated economic and agricultural policy changes have contributed to increased availability of both healthy and less healthy imported foods. The study highlights an increase in healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables and whole-grain refined cereals. The study also shows that there has been an increase in less healthy foods including fats and oils; meat; processed dairy products; energy-dense beverages; and processed and packaged foods. Monitoring the trends of imported foods at country level from the perspective of trade agreements, we enable the development of appropriate and targeted interventions to improve diets and health and inform national health interventions to identify areas of concern.
Citation: Ravuvu A, Friel S, Thow AM, Snowdon W, Wate J. Monitoring the impact of trade agreements on national food environments: trade imports and population nutrition risks in Fiji. Global Health. 2017;13(1):33.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) represent a significant threat to human health. Risks for many of the major NCDs are associated with the production, marketing and consumption of commercially produced food and drink, particularly those containing sugar, salt and transfats, alcohol and tobacco. Governing determinants of risk frequently brings public health into conflict with the interests of profit-driven food, beverage, alcohol and tobacco industries. In this article, authors use a conceptual framework to review three models of governance of NCD risk: self-regulation by industry; hybrid models of public-private engagement; and public sector regulation. They analyze the challenges inherent in each model, and review what is known (or not) about their impact on NCD outcomes. They identify reforms that will be needed to the global health architecture to govern NCD risks, including to strengthen its ability to consolidate the collective power of diverse stakeholders, its authority to develop and enforce clear measures to address risks, as well as establish monitoring and rights-based accountability systems across all actors to drive measurable, equitable and sustainable progress in reducing the global burden of NCDs.
Citation: Buse K, Tanaka S, Hawkes S. Healthy people and healthy profits? Elaborating a conceptual framework for governing the commercial determinants of non-communicable diseases and identifying options for reducing risk exposure. Global Health. 2017; 13(1):34.
When the city council of Santa Fe, New Mexico, placed a measure on the local ballot to tax sugary drinks earlier this year, writes Rob Waters in Forbes, the soda industry responded quickly, pouring $1.3 million into the anti-tax campaign. To cover their bases, industry lobbyists also pursued a back-up plan: they backed a bill in the state legislature to strip local governments of the power to levy such taxes. In the end, the state language was added to another bill that sailed through the New Mexico House before dying in a Senate committee, shortly before Santa Fe voters defeated the local soda tax. But as a growing number of cities consider and increasingly pass soda taxes and other measures designed to combat obesity and promote healthy eating, the food industry has turned to preemption, a strategy used extensively by the tobacco and gun lobbies.
Taxes to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) such as soda drinks have been endorsed by the World Health Organization and are now in place in France, Hungary, and Mexico, and scheduled for Portugal, South Africa, and Great Britain. Such taxes have so far been impossible to enact in the United States at the state or federal level, but since 2014 seven local jurisdictions have put them in place. Three necessary conditions for local political enactment emerge from this recent experience: Democratic Party dominance, external financial support for pro-tax advocates, and a political message appropriate to the process (public health for ballot issues; budget revenue for city council votes). Roughly 40 percent of Americans live within local jurisdictions where the Democratic Party dominates, so room exists for local SSB taxes to continue spreading.
Citation: Paarlberg R, Mozaffarian D, Micha R. Can US local soda taxes continue to spread?. Food Policy. 2017 Aug 31;71:1-7.