Last week, my colleague reported on a new series on "Big Food" from PLoS Medicine. In a Q&A on the Speaking of Medicine blog today, co-editor David Stuckler, MPH, PhD, addresses why it's important for the journal to examine the food industry and its influence in global health:
Put simply, our global food systems are failing to meet the world’s dietary needs. To understand why, it’s necessary to look at who are the main players – increasingly it’s large, powerful multi-national companies.
Just like to deal with tobacco you have to address tobacco companies, so too when dealing with dietary issues is it necessary to deal with global food companies and the markets that power them.
When asked about what future research is needed, he had this to say:
We need to know more about the addictive properties of food and how to build a case for effective legislation and regulation. Similar to how public-health battles on tobacco played out in the courts, it is likely that food issues will end up there too. There is also a need for consensus on how to interact with industry so to improve health and nutrition. Many public health and medical schools take money from Coca-Cola or PepsiCo as well as other sources with questionable records like ExxonMobile and Monsanto – is this acceptable? As much as we study individual risks, we equally need to apply our rigorous scientific methods to understanding population risk factors. This includes gaining a much better understanding of how to deal with the powerful influence of corporate interests on public health.