Corporate Involvement in International Nutrition and Alcohol Laws - Help or hindrance for protecting health, government budgets, and worker productivity?

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A consortium of non-profit public health advocacy groups will press world leaders and other representatives of the 193 member states to call for strong public policy measures to curb nutrition and alcohol-related diseases and safeguards against conflicts of interest in the policy-making process when they meet in New York City at the United Nations General Assembly next week.  (1)


The U.N. “High Level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases” will adopt a strategy at the  General Assembly on Monday and Tuesday, September 19-20, 2011, following difficult negotiations on a “Political Declaration” that began in June. 


Last year, the U.N. pledged to create a strategy to limit cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases caused by poor nutrition, excess consumption of alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and physical inactivity.  Negotiations during the summer revealed competing views about the effectiveness of voluntary food industry efforts, adequacy of existing international law, and the role of for-profit companies and public-interest groups in the policy-making process. The public-interest groups stress that governments now have an unprecedented full and sophisticated grasp of gigantic health and economic burden NCDs, but have been decidedly naive about conflicts of interest in policy-making.

 (See the near-final “Political Declaration” at , program agenda at , and the statement of the Conflict of Interest Coalition at )


”The multitude of 140, and counting, public interest groups calling for safeguards against conflicts of interest cannot be ignored, and citizens in any country don’t have to be experts in good governance to know that the fox belongs outside the hen house,” said Patti Rundall of the International Baby Food Action Network.  “Having industry at the table can be ruinous for consensus on public health priority-setting, and virtually guarantees the lowest and most useless common denominator,” she added.


“Leaders simply must get fundamental disease rate-reduction targets locked in—starting with 25% by 2025—and really embrace effective regulations on population-level salt reduction and trans fat elimination, nutrition standards for school meals, food tax reform, controls on the marketing of high fat, salt and sugar foods and alcohol to children and young people, and front of pack labelling in order to safeguard the health and economic development, nationally and internationally,” said Paul Lincoln of the UK-based National Heart Forum. 


“World leaders need to demonstrate their dedication to public health nutrition as they have already begun to do for tobacco control.  Leaders fall short when they white-wash ineffective food industry promises, and duck specifics on regulatory reform while backward-looking World Trade Organization rules (and Codex Alimentarius Commission nutrition standards) tie the hands of national governments,” said Bill Jeffery of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest-Canada and the International Association of Consumer Food Organizations.


“The United Nations needs a sensible, evidence-based and experience-informed code of conduct to ensure that commercial operations in food, alcohol, drug and other industries do not impair progress or the effectiveness of NCD prevention policies,” said Dr. Kate Allen of the World Cancer Research Fund International.


“Manufacturers and distributors of alcohol beverages are bound to continue to promote their vested interests by supporting  ineffective ‘educational’ programs and obstructing the implementation of effective legislative measures such as tax increases and advertising restrictions,” said Derek Rutherford, Chair of Global Alcohol Policy Alliance.


“At this summit we have the ridiculous state of affairs whereby representatives of the pharmaceutical industry and the food and drink industry will be speaking as civil society. The WHO needs to clearly recognise the differences between industry lobbyists and pubic interest NGOs and develop meaningful rules to manage the potential conflicts of interest that arise when engaging with the private sector,” said Indrani Thuraisingham, Consumers International.  


“Sky-high rates of obesity and overweight among children and adults in developed countries are spreading to many emerging economies with calorie-dense, nutrient-poor salty, sugary, fatty foods.  Meek requests for further voluntary forbearance by the food, drink, and advertising industries are no substitute for regulatory limits on advertising to children,” said Professor Shiriki Kumanyika.



(1) The Conflict of Interest Coalition Statement of concern has been endorsed by 143 national, regional and global networks and organisations working in public health, including medicine, nutrition, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, mental health, infant feeding,   food safety and development - including  four Royal Colleges  of Paediatrics and Child Health, Physicians, Midwives and General Practitioners.

The statement can be found here:

The statement has also been endorsed by 1,293 individuals.


Spokesperson Contacts in New York City


Centre for Science in the Public Interest, Canada (CSPI-Canada) is an independent health advocacy organization with offices in Ottawa and Washington.  CSPI's advocacy efforts are supported by more than 100,000 subscribers to the Canadian edition of its Nutrition Action Healthletter, on average, one subscribing household within a one block radius of every Canadian street corner.  CSPI does not accept industry or government funding and Nutrition Action does not carry advertisements. Contact Point in New York City: Bill Jeffery, LLB, National Coordinator, Mobile/Text: 1-613-565-2140; ; Skype at: billjeffery2447337; Follow me this week on Twitter at BillJefferyCSPI



Consumers International (CI) is the only independent global campaigning voice for consumers. With over 220 member organisations in 115 countries, we are building a powerful international consumer movement to help protect and empower consumers everywhere. Contact point in New York: Indrani Thuraisingham, CI’s head of Asia Pacific and the Middle East.  Mobile +601 2205 2277. E-mail indrani(at)


Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA) is a developing network of non-government organizations and people working in public health agencies that share information on alcohol issues and advocate evidence-based alcohol policies.  Contacts in New York: Derek Rutherford:, mobile +44-7710235164; Dr. Sally Casswell, Chairperson of the Scientific Advisory Panel:, mobile +64-21655346  Øystein Bakke, Secretary: ; mobile +47-41622135; and George Hacker,, mobile +1-202-746-9210. 


International Association for Consumer Food Organizations (IACFO) is an association of non-governmental organizations that represent consumer interests in the areas of nutrition, food safety, and related food policy matters.  IACFO was formed in 1997 to increase consumer representation in the debate over the global food trade and to work with international agencies responsible for harmonizing standards related to the production, distribution, and sale of foods.  IACFO regularly participates, as a recognized observer, in meetings of committees of the Codex Alimentarius Commission and meetings convened by the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.  IACFO’s members also represent consumer interests before government regulatory agencies on five continents and release reports examining current nutrition policy and food safety issues.  Contact Point in New York: See info, below, for CSPI and IBFAN.



International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO) is a not-for-profit  organisation linking over 50 regional and national associations with over 10,000 professional members in scientific, medical and research organisations.  It is an umbrella organisation for 52 national obesity associations, representing 56 countries.  Its mission is to improve global health by promoting the understanding of obesity and weight-related diseases through scientific research and dialogue, whilst encouraging the development of effective policies for their prevention and management.  Contact in New York:  Shiriki Kumanyika, PhD, MPH at ; mobile: 1-267-252-1642 


International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) consists of public interest groups working around the world to reduce infant and young child morbidity and mortality. IBFAN aims to improve the health and well-being of babies and young children, their mothers and their families through the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding and optimal infant feeding practices. IBFAN works for universal and full implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitute and Resolutions.  Contact Point in New York City: Patti Rundall at; mobile: 44-0778-6-523493.  website:


National Heart Forum (NHF-UK) is a leading charitable alliance of 70 national organisations working to reduce the risk of avoidable chronic diseases—coronary heart, disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, respiratory disease, and cancer.  Our purpose is to co-ordinate public health policy development and advocacy among members drawn from professional representative bodies, consumer groups, voluntary and public sector organisations. Contact in New York:  Paul Lincoln mobile +44 7946 433215;  Skype:; Modi Mwatsama: mobile +44 7941 694995; ; Skype: modi.mwatsama  Follow me this week on twitter at ModiMwatsama 


World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF International) Working with leading research scientists, policy makers and health professionals, WCRF International is committed to making cancer prevention a reality.  It is the not-for-profit umbrella association that leads and unifies our WCRF global network of cancer charities dedicated to funding research and education programmes into the link between food, nutrition, physical activity, weight maintenance and cancer risk. The national charities are based in the US, UK, Netherlands, Hong Kong and France.  WCRF International was created to maximise the potential of each national member, and by building a network of cancer charities, strengthen the global cancer prevention message. With the belief that greater impact can be achieved when allied organisations work together, WCRF International operates to ensure that each of its charities is in a stronger position than if it were operating in isolation.  Contact Point in New York: Kate Allen, PhD at; mobile: 44-07766-600-940. Follow us on Twitter at WCRFInt