Bellagio Declaration asks for protection from Big Food, Big Soda lobbying

Sept. 20, 2013
Public health and nutrition scientists are calling for greater efforts to protect healthy food policies from being undermined by the lobbying forces of multinational food corporations, or “Big Food” and “Big Soda,” as they have been called.
 
The call to action, known as “The Bellagio Declaration,” was made at the International Congress on Nutrition in Granada, Spain, this week. The declaration came out of an earlier meeting on the progress of obesity prevention efforts in low- and middle-income countries, which was held this summer in Bellagio, Italy.
 
The Bellagio Declaration calls upon governments and other organizations to take specific actions to counteract the influence of Big Food, which successfully has blocked healthy food policies in many countries.
 
Dr. Barry Popkin

Dr. Barry Popkin

“Participants from many developing countries battling the obesity epidemic told similar stories in their presentations,” said the meeting convener, Barry Popkin, PhD. “Governments see the rising tsunami of obesity flooding over their countries, but as soon as they put up serious policies to create healthier food environments, they get hammered by the food industry.”
 
Popkin is W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of nutrition in The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

The policies that predictably provoke this response are regulations to reduce the marketing of unhealthy foods to children, front-of-pack labelling systems to help consumers readily assess the healthiness of foods, and taxes on unhealthy foods such as sugar-sweetened beverages.

A series of papers published this week in Obesity Reviews shows that the obesity epidemic is spreading very quickly in many developing countries, rapidly catching up with or overtaking under-nutrition as the dominant nutrition problem. This is creating a double burden – of co-existent over-nutrition and under-nutrition – within many populations and even within households.
 
Margaret Chan, MD, DSc, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), recently called the Big Food and Big Soda lobbies one of the biggest challenges faced by countries trying to reduce obesity and diet-related chronic diseases.
 
The Bellagio Declaration calls upon WHO to develop norms for government engagement with the private sector so that partnerships are not detrimental to nutrition goals.

The Bellagio Declaration, an open letter to Margaret Chan, and the presentations and papers from the Bellagio meeting can be found online.


 
Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu.