Food companies should help people eat less, says food policy expert

By Joyeeta Basu contact

- Last updated on GMT

Companies should help reduce consumption across the product range, said Progessor Lang
Companies should help reduce consumption across the product range, said Progessor Lang

Related tags: Nutrition

The onus should not be on consumers to choose healthy foods but on companies to help reduce consumption, says Food Policy professor at City University London, Tim Lang.

The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) published a report on Thursday which measured the work implemented by its members worldwide to improve consumer health. The report said at least 95% of respondents had established policies to improve consumer health; 97% had activated programmes to improve wellness; and 78% had communicated publicly on at least one of the CGF’s resolutions.

 But Lang is not convinced.

 “If things were so good, how come obesity rates are stubbornly high?”​ he asked. “How come inequalities of diet-related ill health are so wide? How come the footprint of food on climate, water and eco-systems generally are so deep?”

 Though results from the CGF’s survey in 2014 showed more than 22,500 products had been reformulated to support healthier diets, the key was not lowering the levels of saturated fat or salt of individual products and asking consumers to make wise decisions, said Professor Lang – it was for manufacturers to ask themselves how best they could help reduce consumption across their product range.

 “What I urge these companies to do is to ask themselves: what could you do to reduce your impact in total?​” he told FoodNavigator.  

 “Not just producing a ‘low this, low that’ product and putting the onus on consumers to choose wisely, but actually helping reduce consumption across the product range?”

 No one solution

 ​The report said that better nutrition, personal care and hygiene had increased average global life expectancy from 47 years in 1950-55 to 68 years in recent times. However, worldwide obesity had nearly doubled since 1980 and half the world is expected to be obese by 2050.

 More than 36 million global deaths (63%) are due to diseases such as diabetes and heart attacks, it added. 

“Let’s look at actual behaviour. In food trends at least, the picture is very sober. On a more positive note, such findings are a sign that big consumer goods companies are sensitive to the criticism that the model honed by Western prosperity of ever more goods, ever more food products, ever more consumption is running out of ideological space,” ​said Professor Lang.

CEO of Royal Ahold Dick Boer and CEO of Nestlé SA Paul Bulcke and co-chairs however said there was no one solution to the complexity of the health challenges facing people. ”No single solution or organisation can stimulate the adoption of healthier lifestyles, but we hope this report will help galvanise the industry into taking collective action for a positive change,” ​he said.

 The Resolution

The CGF, a global, parity-based industry network, has CEOs and senior management of 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and other stakeholders across 70 countries as its members.

 In 2011 its board of directors approved a plan, Health and Wellness Resolutions, which looked at three key areas to improve consumer health. They included offering consumers a wider range of healthy products, more transparency in product information and raising consumer awareness of healthier lifestyles.

 The full CGF report is available here:​.

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1 comment

Ask food manufacturers to reduce the quantity that people buy?

Posted by chris aylmer,

How do you suppose that would work? Would you expect food producers to discourage sales of food? Some unlikely business proposition... staff walking round the store with a placard warning against eating too much food. I guess they could make the food taste bad or make it very expensive but that would not be popular with consumers. They would go elsewhere.
It's not the total calorie count or food quantity that is crucial in my opinion, but the quality of the food that should count...fresh natural food such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains with plenty of vitamins, minerals and fiber, as opposed to processed food, baked goods, ready meals and snacks with too much sugar, salt and other additives. Bread made from wholemeal flour rather than highly refined white flour. Give the consumer the choice..they need to make the decision. You do not need to cut down on quality food...rather eat more of it.

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