Spending on junk food advertising is nearly 30 times what government spends on promoting healthy eatingBMJ 2017; 359 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j4677 (Published 11 October 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j4677
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'May God defend me from my friends: I can defend myself from my enemies. ' Voltaire
Obesity Health Alliance showed that spending on junk food advertising is 30 times what the government spends on promoting healthy eating.(1) This is the tip of the iceberg: not only is the brilliant marketing by the industry far more effective than government campaigns but also the Alliance did not take into account interactive social media with the Internet.
The interview of the chief nutritionist at Public Health England is frightening.(1)
a) “Our healthy lifestyle campaigns make an important contribution” is flying in the face of the evidence. Lifestyle campaigns are almost useless and at best are attempting to fill the Danaides’ barrel. Lifestyle campaigns are a smokescreen for inertia. In contrast, interventions involving psychosocial processes to buffer the impact of existing socioeconomic conditions by developing sense of control, coping with feelings of hopelessness and lack of control are effective; this has been robustly evidence based for a long time.(2,3)
b) “We’re at the forefront of some of those solutions, including working with industry to reduce sugar and calories in food”(1) ignores the devastating consequences of the flawed Responsibility Deal.(4,5) The fox should not be in charge of the henhouse.
Last, the worst may be that “UK experts are urging the government to take steps to restrict advertising of junk food.”(1) Cherry picking measures is ineffective: the policy must be comprehensive. Comprehensive policies (advertising bans + taxation + front-of-pack labelling systems …) are effective, that is why they are not implemented. Economy is first.
1 O’Dowd A. Spending on junk food advertising is nearly 30 times what government spends on promoting healthy eating. BMJ 2017;359:j4677.
2 MacGregor GA, He FJ, Pombo-Rodrigues S. Food and the responsibility deal: how the salt reduction strategy was derailed. BMJ 2015;350:h1936.
3 Narayan KM, Hoskin M, Kozak D et al. Randomized clinical trial of lifestyle interventions in Pima Indians: a pilot study. Diabet Med 1998;15:66-72.
4 Adler NE, Tan JJX. Commentary: Tackling the health gap: the role of psychosocial processes. Int J Epidemiol 2017;46:1329-1331.
5 Gornall J. Sugar's web of influence 3: why the responsibility deal is a "dead duck" for sugar reduction. BMJ 2015;350:h219.
Competing interests: AB is a member of the scientific committee of Santé Publique France.
Junk food is a mixed blessing. It provides us with tasty, convenient, low-cost calories; but it also provides us with addictive, unhealthy ingredients like trans fats, monosodium glutamate, sugar, and excess salt and oil. Moreover, it teaches us to be dependent on restaurants and not to cook at home, where we can control the freshness and ingredients of our food. The best way to cure ourselves of junk food addiction is to exchange junk food for real food, by practicing safe home cooking and stocking our kitchen with fresh produce, basic equipment, and interesting cookbooks. Home cooking is “health ensurance.”
Competing interests: No competing interests