ALCOHOL and processed food companies are employing the same tactics as Big Tobacco to increase their profits at the expense of people’s lives, health experts say.
The tactics used include industry-funded biased research, political donations, ghost-writing of public policy and campaigns blaming individuals for their choices, an article in The Lancet said on Tuesday.
Trusting multinational companies with the public’s health is like “having burglars install your locks”, one of the authors, the University of Melbourne’s Rob Moodie, said. “You think you are safe but you are obviously not.”
About 6.3 million deaths globally were caused by tobacco in 2010, and 4.9 million by alcohol, the paper estimated.
A further 18 million deaths were caused by high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, combined with being overweight.
“Much of [this] could be attributed to the consumption of ultraprocessed foods and drinks,” Professor Moodie wrote in The Lancet.
Co-author Bruce Neal, from the University of Sydney and The George Institute for Global Health, said the food industry in Australia was worth more than $100 billion. “It’s an incredible earner for the government and it’s very influential,” he told a briefing organised by the Australian Science Media Centre.
In the past he worked with the pharmaceutical industry to improve public health, but this was not possible with the food industry. “The problem is one of the best ways for the food industry to make profits is to add large amounts of fat and sugar to low cost [foods],” he said.