Observations From the Heart

It’s time to ban junk food on hospital premises

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f3932 (Published 26 June 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3932
  1. Aseem Malhotra, interventional cardiology specialist registrar, Royal Free Hospital, London
  1. aseem_malhotra{at}hotmail.com

To combat obesity, we doctors must start in our own back yard

A fundamental misunderstanding in the scientific community and among the lay public has interfered with our collective ability to curb the obesity epidemic. The belief that we make our food choices deliberately and that they reflect our true desires sustains the status quo and obscures the reality that decisions about the food we buy and consume are often automatic and made without full awareness.1 2

Progress in reversing what now poses to be the greatest threat to our health worldwide can be made only once we take seriously the root cause of diet related disease: the food environment. An oversupply of nutritionally poor and energy dense foods loaded with sugar, salt, and trans fats—fuelled by the junk food industry’s aggressive and irresponsible marketing—has even been allowed to hijack the very institutions that are supposed to set an example: our hospitals. On daily ward rounds it is appalling to see patients, some of whom are not fully mobile, gorging on crisps, confectionery, sports drinks, and cola—the very food items that may have contributed to their admission in the first place. That these consumables are sold to patients through the portable hospital trolleys reflects a marketing strategy by junk food companies to make their products available and accessible to anyone, anywhere, at any time. It is …

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