Lobbying in food industry : is obesity our fate ?

Food industry

Food industries in both United Kingdom and the United States of America over the years have been known to be dominated by junk food popularly known as ‘big food.’ This does not mean that there is no ‘good food’ or rather healthy one being produced in those countries. The domination of ‘big food’ is hugely influenced by advocacy taking place in the industry. The government of America in the year 1981 suggested that ‘big food’ which is scientifically known to be unhealthy could count as a vegetable as long as it contains traces of healthy ingredients.

In a move to reduce school lunch budget, the Reagan government proposed the inclusion of pickle relish and ketchup in nutritional requirements. The media and the opposition did not welcome the proposal well, and many people opposed it. Even though Reagan’s administration dropped the proposal, it was still passed into law after all. Not even Obama’s effort to revise the school lunch policies could save the situation as the’ big food ‘industry responded with over $5.6 million lobbying campaign. This is because any alterations made by the agriculture section would threaten the enormous profits made by the ‘big food’ companies that have contracts of supplying school going children with lunch.

Lobbying tactics of ’big food’ companies

In order to shun government directives for improved food labeling, ‘big food’ companies have been spending huge amounts of cash on lobbying. This has proven to be working for them in both the United States and the United Kingdom. This can be clearly seen in the U.S when the Obama’s administration ordered the agriculture sector to change the school food lunch policy. ConAgra and Schwann are reportedly two ‘big food’ companies which contributed the most. This is because they have enormous contracts for fries and pizzas utilized in school lunches.

The same scenario was encountered in Europe when the companies spent a whopping 1 billion Euros in successfully influencing the parliament of Europe to decline the traffic light food tagging system. This scheme was hugely supported by public health advocates worldwide. This is because it involved the use of colors to show the comparative healthiness. The industries feared the scheme will jeopardize their sales and hence profits by putting red tags on their products. Direct advocacy is one of the best tools that the companies use to manipulate the public insight as well as the regulatory environment in their favor.

Effects of food industry lobbying

Without a doubt, obesity is awaiting majority of the citizens in the United States and even the United Kingdom. The ‘big food’ companies are spending a lot of money in fueling lobbying. This makes them acceptable by the law and hence giving them a huge boost in the market. In the media, these companies usually put the liability of obesity on personal choices rather than corporate and environmental influences.

They also claim that government efforts to control food environments are messing with personal rights and liberties. This might not be the case as these big food companies are somehow ‘’forcing’’ their products on innocent citizens. This can be well supported by the United States school lunch policy. These companies also finance research whose purpose is to confuse the facts and leave the public in qualm.

Failure of measures of countering lobbying

Even though the ‘good food’ companies are losing in Washington, they are not far off. This is because they have been recently gaining big in the marketplace. Practically, there are no ‘good food’ industry advocacy strategies in place. The ‘good food’ companies have left the beverages bigwigs and ‘big food’ companies to push their agenda through advocacy. Companies such as Applegate have neglected to lobby, and they have been using other alternatives to create awareness. For example, they recently based the bill for a documentary that promotes limiting of antibiotics usage in agriculture. They missed screening some parts of America and even released a film on Netflix about the issue. Even though this is done some justice, some top’ good food’ officials still believe that they are losing the war.

They are worried that the deficiency of advocacy by sensitive health organizations could lead to more losses. This is especially in regulatory initiatives such as labeling which are meant to counter the uncontrollable distribution of unhealthy ‘big food.’ This shows that despite the effort the ‘good food’ companies are putting to increase their recognition and acceptance by the community, lobbying is still the best solution to their problem. A company like Applegate, which is said to be worth over 800 million dollars, for example, has never contemplated hiring a lobbyist. This is doing more harm than good to the’ good food’ companies. It is for this reason that some leaders like Gary Hirshberg having been slaving out of public notice in order to urge more ‘good food’ companies to get involved in the policy.

It is very true that Americans and even citizens of the United Kingdom are susceptible to obesity if the ‘good food’ companies do not step up their game. ‘Big food’ companies despite comprising of their small percentage in the market are making huge strides due to their participation in influencing the industry. The war against unhealthy one cannot be won unless the necessary institutions are willing to join hands and work together to bring forward what is good to the citizens’ health. The government should collaborate with the private sector and closely investigate the strategies used by the ‘big food’ companies to sway the policy that prevents healthy measures from being put in place.

The public, on the other hand, should also try their best to decide to live healthily and avoid all the ‘big food’ companies’ products on the shelf. They should choose to live healthily. The media should also play its part and sensitize the mass on the need to choose healthy diets rather than being drowned by heavy cash paid by big food companies in advertising of their products. Hopefully, in the near future, the fight against unhealthy diets will be won. Though, as it stands now, it is a losing battle. Lobbying in the food industry is a huge boost to the ‘big food’ companies, and it is without a doubt that obesity will be our fate.