The tie up between Danone’s North American dairy business and WhiteWave has created one of the top-15 U.S. food and beverages companies by sales, as well the country’s no. 1 dairy business (excluding cheese), reports Fortune. But the new unit, called DanoneWave, now tops another ranking and one that has nothing to do with food: On April 12, the day the acquisition of WhiteWave was approved, the newly formed enterprise received its status of “public benefit corporation”—the largest company in the U.S. to have that distinction. A benefit corporation has a certain legal framework that is meant to hold a company to a higher standard than the pure pursuit of profit. Instead, it’s mandated to balance the interests of all stakeholders, rather than prioritize shareholders, and is required to create a positive impact on society.
Image from Youth Food Educators of East Harlem
Countermarketing campaigns use health communications to reduce the demand for unhealthy products by exposing motives and undermining marketing practices of producers. These campaigns can contribute to the prevention of noncommunicable diseases by denormalizing the marketing of tobacco, alcohol, and unhealthy food. By portraying these activities as outside the boundaries of civilized corporate behavior, countermarketing can reduce the demand for unhealthy products and lead to changes in industry marketing practices. Countermarketing blends consumer protection, media advocacy, and health education with the demand for corporate accountability. Countermarketing campaigns have been demonstrated to be an effective component of comprehensive tobacco control. This review describes common elements of tobacco countermarketing such as describing adverse health consequences, appealing to negative emotions, highlighting industry manipulation of consumers, and engaging users in the design or implementation of campaigns. It then assesses the potential for using these elements to reduce consumption of alcohol and unhealthy foods.
Full citation: Palmedo PC, Dorfman L, Garza S, Murphy E, Freudenberg N. Countermarketing Alcohol and Unhealthy Food: An Effective Strategy for Preventing Noncommunicable Diseases? Lessons from Tobacco. Annu Rev Public Health. 2017;38:119-144.
Unhealthful food-and-beverage advertising often targets vulnerable groups. In this study, investigators systematically assessed all print ads (n = 1586) in all subway stations in the Bronx (n = 68) in 2012. There were no ads promoting “more-healthful” food-or-beverage items (i.e., fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, water or milk). There were many ads for “less-healthful” items (e.g., candies, chips, sugary cereals, frozen pizzas, “energy” drinks, coffee confections, hard alcohol, and beer). Ad placement did not relate to the number of riders entering at stations. Instead, exposure to food-or-beverage ads generally, and to “less-healthful” ads particularly (specifically ads in Spanish, directed at youth, and/or featuring minorities), was directly correlated with poverty, lower high-school graduation rates, higher percentages of Hispanics, and/or higher percentages of children in surrounding residential areas. Additional analyses suggested correlations between ad exposures and sugary-drink consumption, fruit-and-vegetable intake, and diabetes, hypertension, and high-cholesterol rates. Subway-station ads for “less-healthful” items were located disproportionately in areas home to vulnerable populations facing diet and diet-related-health challenges. The fact that uneven ad placement did not relate to total rider counts suggests ads were not directed at the largest possible audiences but rather targeted to specific groups.
Full citation: Lucan SC, Maroko AR, Sanon OC, Schechter CB. Unhealthful Food-and-Beverage Advertising in Subway Stations: Targeted Marketing, Vulnerable Groups, Dietary Intake, and Poor Health. J Urban Health. 2017;94(2):220-232.
A recent lawsuit against Monsanto offers a clear and troubling view into industry strategies that warp research for corporate gain, Paul Thacker writes in Pacific Standard, an investigative magazine. In a lawsuit regarding the possible carcinogenicity of the pesticide Roundup, plaintiffs’ lawyers suing Monsanto charge the company with ghostwriting an academic study finding that Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is not harmful. Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used weed killer and is critical for successful cultivation of genetically modified crops such as corn and soybean, which are resistant to the pesticide. Ghostwriting remains pervasive in some areas of academic research; in 2010, Thacker helped author a Senate report on the matter. Studies drafted by corporations and then published in scientific journals with academic authors have been used to sway government decisions, court cases, and even medical practice.
Previous studies have described various associations between tax policy and health. This article proposes a unifying conceptual framework of ‘Five R’s’ to stimulate awareness about the importance of tax to health improvement. First, tax can improve representation and democratic accountability, and help make governments more responsive to the needs of its citizens. Second, tax can create a revenue stream for a universal pool of public finance for health care and other public services. Third, progressive taxation when combined with appropriate public spending can help redistribute wealth and income and mitigate social and health inequalities. Fourth, the re-pricing of harmful products (e.g. tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy food) can help reduce their consumption. Fifth, taxation provides a route by which certain harmful industries can be regulated. The paper also discusses the barriers that hinder the full potential for taxation to be used to improve health, including: weak tax administrations, large ‘shadow economies’, international trade liberalisation, tax avoidance, transfer pricing by transnational corporations and banking secrecy. The authors suggest that a greater awareness of the manifold associations between tax and health will encourage health practitioners to actively promote fairer and better taxation, thereby helping to improve health and reduce health inequalities.
Citation: Mccoy D, Chigudu S, Tillmann T. Framing the tax and health nexus: a neglected aspect of public health concern. Health Econ Policy Law 2017 Apr;12(2):179-194.
With less than nine months to go for food manufacturers and retailers to meet the 2017 Salt Reduction Targets a new survey by Consensus Action on Salt and Health based at Queen Mary University of London has found that, out of 28 food categories analyzed, only ‘bread rolls’ has so far met the 2017 maximum, but not the average, salt target . The product survey compared two shopping baskets each containing similar everyday food items, but with different amounts of salt. The difference in salt content between the ‘unhealthy’ and ‘healthy’ baskets of products was a staggering 57g of salt.
Last week, at a Hilton hotel in a Maryland suburb near Washington, D.C., reports The New Republic, the Food and Drug Administration held a little-noticed public meeting with big implications for anyone who goes grocery shopping in America. Food industry representatives, consumer advocates, and nutrition experts spent the day trying to influence the government as it looks to redefine which foods are allowed to be labeled as “healthy.” Kristin Reimers, nutrition director for the packaged food company Conagra Brands, told the crowd she’s all for encouraging healthier foods, but added, “It’s important to keep in mind that taste is the primary factor that drives consumers to the foods they buy.” In an interview, she clarified that she thinks there should be a bit more sodium, saturated fat, and sugar permitted in “healthy” foods than the FDA currently allows.