Olympic obesity claims rejected by food manufacturers

By Dan Colombini

- Last updated on GMT

Junk-food adverts at the Olympics will worsen the UK's obesity crisis, according to medical professionals
Junk-food adverts at the Olympics will worsen the UK's obesity crisis, according to medical professionals

Related tags: Food manufacturers, Health

Food manufacturers have rejected claims from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC) that advertising food at the Olympics will worsen the UK’s obesity crisis.

The AoMRC, which is made up of medical professionals including GPs, surgeons and psychiatrists, slammed the government and the food industry’s current strategy on obesity. It also claimed that firms such as McDonalds and Coca-Cola advertising at the event this summer was likely to exacerbate the crisis.

In addition, the medical professionals hit out at many firms for not doing enough to tackle the problem, warning that the industry’s efforts so far could be “too little, too late​”.

But food firms have dismissed the accusations and stressed that food and sports partnerships were a positive combination.

Positive contributions

Barbara Gallani, director of food safety and science at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said: “Food manufacturers have a good track record of making positive contributions to improving public health through a wide range of actions, whether it’s developing healthy choices, reformulating recipes of some of the nation’s favourite foods or working to improve the food literacy of consumers.

“The key to good health is a balanced and varied diet, in the context of a healthy lifestyle that includes plenty of physical activity. This message is highlighted by food and sports partnerships, not undermined by it.​”

The news comes after the AoMRC launched a campaign to highlight the obesity crisis, which it labelled “the single greatest public health threat in the UK​”.

The campaign, which will release its first report later this year, will make a series of practical recommendations designed to curb the epidemic.

These include urging individuals to take responsibility through exercise and positive parenting, efforts for clinicians to intervene on obesity health issues and improving education on the subject.

But Terence Stephenson, professor at the AoMRC, told FoodManufacture.co.uk that food firms played a vital part in rectifying the problem.

Huge chunk

He said: “The food industry could be doing much more but it is unlikely as these are the areas where a huge chunk of their profits come from”.

“I think more could be done on labelling specifically. I regularly struggle to find out what exactly is in a product when I am shopping. Product placement is also a problem and companies and retailers should consider where particular items are placed to avoid targeting children​.”

Stephenson warned that, by having junk-food adverts at an event such as the Olympics, it undermined the work being done to promote a healthier lifestyle.

Why is it that a confectionery firm will spend £1M on an advertising campaign​,” he said.

It is so people go out and buy that particular product, not to inspire people to go and run around a park for an hour. The industry could and should be doing more. I would celebrate the work of some firms but it could all end up being too little too late​.”

To read what firms are doing to prevent an influx of “Olympic sickies” this summer click here.


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