Friday, July 25, 2008

A diverting campaign on obesity

Just a few facts....

In 2002 a report from UBS Warburg investment bank said that 46% of Nestlé income was from 'less healthy foods' and at risk if governments brought in regulations to tackle the epidemic of obesity.

Nestlé's Chairman and former Chief Executive, Peter Brabeck-Letmathé, decided to rebrand the firm as a Nutrition, Health and Wellness company.

Breastfed infants are less likely to be obese. Nestlé's aggressive marketing of formula undermines breastfeeding.

Nestlé is currently trying to enter the mass UK formula market, with the help of television celebrity, Dr. Miriam Stoppard. This is particularly bad news as Nestlé drives down formula marketing standards of the industry as a whole.

Nestlé cereals have been criticised for being high in salt and fat - Nestlé relies on Shredded Wheat, which is 100% wheat, to provide it cover. The UK Advertising Standards Authority ruled in June against a Nestlé cereal advertisement calling on people to eat three servings of 'whole grains' every day.

Regulations in Denmark have forced food companies to cut levels of transfats in foods, but Nestlé and the food industry as a whole is pressing for voluntary action elsewhere.

Nestlé sponsored a fringe meeting at the last Labour Party Conference and thereby shared a platform with the Minister for Public Health.

In May, The Independent on Sunday (IoS) reported: "An investigation by the IoS has uncovered strong ties between Nestlé, the world's largest baby milk manufacturer, and the Department of Health. Rosie Cooper, a parliamentary private secretary to the Health minister Ben Bradshaw, is undergoing a year-long Industry and Parliament Trust fellowship with Nestlé, and in February went for a week to South Africa as a guest of the group to oversee its corporate social responsibility activities." Where apparently she didn't notice Nestlé breaking South African regulations in the way it markets its formula there.

Nestlé sponsored a conference on obesity in July, attended by the Chief Medical Officer.

In October 2007, I queried how the government would respond to a report it had commissioned called Tackling Obesities: Future Choices. The Public Health Minister commented in her introduction: "As the report demonstrates, there is no quick and easy solution to tackling obesity." Would the government act on the recommendations for increasing breastfeeding rates by implementing the World Health Assembly marketing requirements for baby milks? The answer turned out to be no. It has not.

What about taking legislative action along the lines of Denmark? The book 'Global Obligations for the Right to Food' argues that it has human rights obligations to improve diets.

It seems not. Instead the government is embarking on an advertising campaign encouraging people to exercise more. Important, but it should not be a diversion.

Yet the government has 200 million reasons to be diverted. The campaign is being funded to the tune of £200 million by Coca-Cola, Kellogg's, Mars, Nestle and Tesco, all to some degree or other responsible for promoting 'less healthy foods'.

2 comments:

Rob a said...

The BBC has a story today about trans-fats being banned in California from 2010 (linked in rob a above).

You can see why companies would do all they can to continue using them when you read that they're "Used to extend [the] shelf life of products."
And you can also see that companies have no real interest in the health of consumers when you read, "Even a small reduction in consumption [of trans-fats] can cut heart disease," and "They have no nutritional benefit."

Ailsa said...

Nestle Milo so how managed to get the heart foundation tick in new zealand (they paid some one obliviously), seeing as how the majority of it is sugar anyway. apparently they put use less milo and low fat milk in small writing on the side. what a joke, all i can say as im glad i don't drink it or buy nestle products