Wednesday 18th September 2013  
International Obesity TaskForce 


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Big Food undermining healthy food policies 

Public health and nutrition scientists are calling for greater efforts to protect healthy food policies from being undermined by the lobbying forces of multi-national food corporations, or Big Food and Big Soda as they have been called. A meeting on the progress of obesity prevention efforts in low and middle income countries in Bellagio, Italy in June, has released its Bellagio Declaration at the International Congress on Nutrition in Granada, Spain today. The Declaration calls on governments and other organisations to take specific actions to counteract the influence of Big Food which has successfully blocked healthy food policies in many countries.

'The stories which came out from many presentations from developing countries which are battling the obesity epidemic followed a common pattern,' said the meeting convener, Professor Barry Popkin from the University of North Carolina. '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.' The policies which 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 the food, and taxes on unhealthy foods like sugar-sweetened beverages, according to Prof Carlos Monteiro, University of Sao Paulo, a co-convener and one of Brazil's leading public nutrition researchers.

The country experiences, published in a series of papers this week in Obesity Reviews, show that the obesity epidemic is rising very fast in many developing countries, rapidly catching up or overtaking undernutrition as the dominant nutrition problem. This is creating a double burden of co-existent overnutrition and undernutrition within many populations or even within households.

The Director General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Margaret Chan, has recently called the lobby forces of Big Food and Big Soda one of the biggest challenge that countries face as they try to reduce obesity and diet-related chronic diseases. She outlined some of the tactics the food industry have been using such as front groups and lobby groups, promises of self-regulation, lawsuits, and industry-funded research.  The Bellagio Declaration calls on WHO to develop norms for government engagement with the private sector so that partnerships are not detrimental to nutrition goals.

'We have written to Dr Chan to strongly support WHO in its work with governments and non-government organisations to increase the transparency and accountability systems within food policy development,' said Professor Boyd Swinburn from the University of Auckland and Co-Chair of the International Obesity Task Force, 'The first priority for food policies is to improve nutritional outcomes for the population, not the bottom lines of multi-national corporations.'

The Bellagio meeting was held under the auspices of the International Obesity Taskforce and the International Union of Nutritional Sciences, led by its immediate Past President, Professor Ricardo Uauy, University of Chile, and was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Please view the Bellagio Declaration here.

Papers from the Bellagio Meeting on Program and Policy Options for Preventing Obesity in the
Low- and Middle-Income Countries published online by Obesity Reviews and available at

Overview: Bellagio Conference on Program and Policy Options for Preventing Obesity in the Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Barry Popkin, Carlos Monteiro and Boyd Swinburn

Ultra-processed products are becoming dominant in the global food system

Carlos A. Monteiro, Jean-Claude Moubarac, Geoffrey Cannon, Shu Wen Ng and Barry Popkin

New Dynamics in Global Obesity Facing Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Barry M. Popkin and Meghan M Slining

Brazilian Obesity Prevention and Control Initiatives

Patricia Constante Jaime, Ana Carolina Feldenheimer da Silva, Patr�cia Chaves Gentil, Rafael Moreira Claro and Carlos Augusto Monteiro

Mexico Attempts to Tackle Obesity: The Process, Results, Push Backs, and Future Challenges

Simon Barquera, Ismael Campos and Juan A. Rivera

The Nutrition Transition in Bangladesh: Is the Country Ready for This Double Burden?

Shusmita Hossain Khan and Shamim Hayder Talukder

Program and Policy Options for Preventing Obesity in China

Huijun Wang and Fengying Zhai

Structural Responses to the Obesity and Non-Communicable Diseases Epidemic: The Chilean Law of Food Labeling and Advertising

Camila Corval�n, Marcela Reyes, Mar�a Luisa Garmendia and Ricardo Uauy

Eliciting a Policy Response for the Rising Epidemic of Overweight-Obesity in India

Shweta Khandelwal and K. Srinath Reddy

Thailand Conquered Undernutrition Very Successfully but Has Not Slowed Obesity

Visith Chavasit, Vijj Kasemsup and Kraisid Tontisirin

Obesity Prevention and Management: Singapore's Experience

Ling Li Foo, K. Vijaya, Robert A. Sloan and Annie Ling

Innovative Strategies Targeting Obesity and Non-communicable Diseases in South Africa: What Can We Learn from the Private Health Care Sector?

Estelle Victoria Lambert and Tracy L. Kolbe-Alexander

Trade Policy and Obesity Prevention: Challenges and Innovation in the Pacific Islands

Wendy Snowdon and Anne Marie Thow

The evolution of policy and actions to tackle obesity in England

Susan A. Jebb, Paul N. Aveyard and Corinna Hawkes

Progress on obesity prevention over 20-years in Australia and New Zealand

Boyd Swinburn and Amanda Wood

Complexities and Opportunities in Monitoring and Evaluating US and Global Changes by the Food Industry

Shu Wen Ng and Elizabeth Dunford

A food policy package for healthy diets and the prevention of obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases: the NOURISHING framework

Corinna Hawkes, Jo Jewell and Kate Allen


Professor Barry Popkin


School of Public Health

Carolina Population Center

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Mobile: +1 919 619 1428


Professor Carlos Monteiro


Department of Nutrition,

School of Public Health

University of Sao Paulo


Professor Boyd Swinburn


School of Population Health

University of Auckland, New Zealand and

WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention, Deakin University, Australia


Also Co-Chair

International Obesity Taskforce

Mobile: +64 22 167 9636

Professor Ricardo Uauy


Institute of Nutrition (INTA)

University of Chile, Chile and

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK


Also, Immediate Past President

International Union of Nutrition Sciences

Mobile: +1 214 329 1550    

IASO - International Association for the Study of Obesity

Charles Darwin House, 12 Roger Street, London, WC1N 2JU


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