The Sense of Taste

An Aspirational Agenda to Curb Food Industry Excesses

ConscienHealth enjoys the good fortune of attracting readers who might disagree with some of the words we share here. So yesterday, when we suggested that food policy wonks might be “giving ‘big food’ a free pass,” it was not entirely surprising to hear from a notable persona in food policy – Marion Nestle. Ever so gently, she suggested that we might not have seen her aspirational agenda to curb excesses of the food industry. It recently appeared in the American Journal of Public Health and she was right. We missed it.

Addictive Deliciousness

The central problem, writes Nestle, is the role of ultra-processed foods in creating an “eat more” food environment. Far from giving the industry a free pass, she lays out an agenda to focus on these problematic foods. She calls them “addictively delicious.”

So she wants to target these foods with diverse tools. She would use dietary guidelines, mass media campaigns, taxes, labeling, marketing restrictions, portion restrictions, and farm policy. Thus, she clearly does not want to give “Big Food” a free pass. Emphatically not.

Unrealistic, but Not Impossible?

Nestle comes right out and says it. “These policy suggestions may seem unrealistic.” As resistant as people have been to simple guidance for wearing face masks in the midst of a deadly pandemic, we suspect she’s right about that. Putting the brakes on delicious food might spark resistance.

So she clearly knows that hers is an aspirational agenda for confronting the food industry. We take the point that she’s not giving the food industry a free pass. It might take more than aspirations to move the needle, though.

Click here for Nestle’s aspirational agenda.

The Sense of Taste, painting by Jan Brueghel the Elder / WikiArt

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May 16, 2022

2 Responses to “An Aspirational Agenda to Curb Food Industry Excesses”

  1. May 16, 2022 at 11:13 am, Mary-Jo said:

    I’m with Marion Nestle about absolutely not giving ‘Big Food’ a pass to peddle high bliss point upf that have been now shown to increase calorie intake. It just seems so irresponsible against the high prevalence of the disease of obesity, worldwide. Regardless of whatever multi factors predispose an individual or a population to the disease, we know that excessive caloric intake must be avoided across the board. I’m hoping that a collateral positive effect of the pandemic is that people have rediscovered the taste, cost, and enjoyment benefits of home cooked and/or fresh foods, esp seasonal offerings vs. stodgy, chalky, sickeningly sweet and salty, non-descript, nothing special upfs!

  2. May 16, 2022 at 9:21 pm, Chester Draws said:

    She would use:

    Dietary guidelines — never worked in the past. Why would they work now?

    Mass media campaigns — expensive and don’t work unless people are already wanting to believe the message. (If they worked then politics would be a simple matter of the person with the most money wins. But that is not how it plays out in practice.)

    Taxes — hurt the poor and provide perverse incentives, in that the industry’s attempts to work around them won’t be in order to make more healthy food.

    Labeling — doesn’t work. We know this. It doesn’t even work for cigarettes, which we all know is cancer in stick form.

    Marketing restrictions — doesn’t work. Actually gives more profit to manufacturers, who now no longer have to compete with advertising money. How much have the alcohol advertising bans achieved?

    Portion restrictions — I’ll just eat three small ones then.

    Farm policy — unworkable. Milk is healthy, but butter is largely fat. So are dairy farms allowed or not? Beef is very good for you, but we keep being told to not eat it, so health isn’t the issue there. US farm policy is already a disjointed and expensive mess without wading in to make it “healthy”.

    Other than that, a great range of ideas!