From the 20th International Congress of Nutrition in Granada, Spain

Unilever: Healthier food choices must be ‘doable’


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Zevenbergen: "...foods and alcohol and tobacco are completely different things so I don't think we should even think about treating them in the same way."
Zevenbergen: "...foods and alcohol and tobacco are completely different things so I don't think we should even think about treating them in the same way."

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The food industry came under attack last week at the International Congress of Nutrition (#ICN20) for not doing enough to improve the healthiness of its portfolios…unfairly, says Unilever.

The Dutch-Anglo food giant’s cross-category nutrition and health director, Hans Zevenbergen, said the industry’s biggest food players were doing as much as they could to improve their offerings, and deserved a seat at the table of nutritional betterment.

As the call for tobacco-like food industry marketing restrictions rises in some quarters, Zevenbergen said: “The food companies have a responsibility – that is absolutely clear. On the other hand the food companies are providing foods that people want and it is our role to do that and gradually, where we can, improve that. I don’t think it is fair necessarily or even helpful, just to point fingers and say, ‘you created the problem’.”

“I think the responsible company offers a whole selection and is moving in a good direction and together with others should do that more and more but …there is a role for people themselves, for governments, for scientists to educate and promote healthier foods but in such a way that it is doable and feasible for people.”

He said there was no need to restrict food marketing in the way tobacco or alcohol advertising has been banned or curtailed in many countries. "I say foods and alcohol and tobacco are entirely different things so I don't think we should even think about treating them in the same way."


Should 'big food' be sponsoring important nutrition conferences like #ICN20 when major food and drink players are active marketers of unhealthy foods?

  • Yes

  • No

  • Depends on the limits of involvement


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Responsibility is our responsibility

Posted by Jon Yaffe,

The argument that "they're only giving us what we like" would be stronger if food producers didn't study the underlying mechanisms of craving in order to directly stimulate non-extinguishing demand and consumption.
Moreover, even if this weren't the case, there is a responsibility greater than making profits when the items we sell are agents that can sicken or poison.
An infant may be perfectly content to crawl under a sink and ingest drain cleaner, but caretakers have a responsibility to be alert and prevent harm.

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Posted by Alastair,

Ida - as a former food industry scientist, I can promise you that there is no way that there is enough money to do research on 'the (negative) outcome of eating these foods'. Industry works on the same body of knowledge that all the academic scientists have. The arguments about food and health are economic and social (freedom of choice vs. government restrictions, economic expediency vs. long-term investment and planning in education and infrastructure). Yes, the marketing tools used by food companies can be highly sophisticated, but there is no hidden body of scientific work on how bad commercially available food is (as there was in the case of the tobacco industry).

If we are killing ourselves slowly, it is because of our own choices in what we eat, how we live and who we vote for (if you are fortunate enough to live in a democratic society).

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What change do we have?

Posted by Ida Erasmus,

We have no chance, against Big Brother....
they fertilise our soil, they laboratorize our seeds...they fill our super markets...what chance do we have...they know the research...the outcome of eating these foods....I tell you what....we are in the Bio-War...and Obama is fighting Mass Destructive weapons...way to go....I ask...what is Obama doing about the Food Industry...they are profit driven to kill us slowly.....that is BASIC SCIENCE IN 2013, XX

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