The bigger you are the better you are – well not in this case. The world’s 25 biggest food companies are failing to take the global crisis in diet seriously and often only change their practices when faced with adverse publicity that could damage their sales, a new study claims.
From Wal-Mart to McDonald’s to Coca-Cola to Cadbury, the world leaders of the food industry are accused of a “pathetic” performance on meeting targets set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2004 to take basic action to improve diet that will in turn tackle obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
The study judged each company on responsible marketing, in particular to children; reductions in fat, sugar and salt; portion size; and developing healthier new products. Just four of 25 said they were taking action to reduce the total fat content of their products. Only five said they were cutting sugar and 10 said they were reducing salt.
The comprehensive review of the policies and practices of the companies, including four British conglomerates, found that their global reach meant they were largely unaccountable for how they addressed the epidemic of diet-related disease. Researchers at City University in London said the only factor which seemed to produce action on issues such as salt and fat content was public discontent.
If the best way to get companies to take health seriously is to have critics give them a wake up call, do these companies care? Many don’t even have the correct policies in place to deal with the crisis.
This lack of commitment to health paints a poor overall picture. Diseases such as cancer, heart disease and obesity currently account for 60 per cent of global deaths- that figure is predicted to rise to 73 per cent by 2020. Does this epidemic have to rise to this level before these corporations accept some kind of accountability?