obesity webinar

Obesity webinar speakers sum up key messages

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food industry Nutrition

Calls to base Britain’s obesity debate on a more scientific footing and the urgent need to reformulate food and drink products were just two of the key messages speakers took from the Food Manufacture Group’s obesity webinar last week.

In this video interview, three speakers selected the most important topics to emerge from the independent, free, one-hour online seminar: Obesity and health, the big fat, sugar and salt debate​, which aired on July 3.

Barbara Gallani, director of regulatory affairs, science and health at the Food and Drink Federation, said: “The two messages for me are: stick to the science and to the evidence. And, also appreciate the work the industry has been doing over many years to improve products, recipes and access to food.”

Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, urged the industry to reformulate foods.

‘Easily reformulate food’

“The food industry in the UK can quite easily reformulate food so it has fewer calories by reducring sugar and fat and do a lot of other actions, which will help stop this crisis of obesity and type 2 diabetes,”​ said MacGregor, who is also chairman of campaign groups Consensus Action on Salt and Health and Action on Sugar.

“It doesn’t make sense for the food industry to produce products that are killing us because dead consumers don’t eat food. And, if they gave us more healthy food, we’d live longer, there would be more consumers and they ​[the food industry] would make more money.”

Dr Charlotte Evans, lecturer in nutritional epidemiology and public health nutrition at the University of Leeds, acknowledged the problem of obesity was complex and required lots of people to help remedy the crisis.

“If you ask anyone in the street whose fault it that we are all getting fat, people do feel it is an individual responsibility,” ​said Evans. “B​ut if we are affected by our environment and there seems to be this reluctance to do anything about that, it generally does require some regulation.”

Professor Alan Jackson, director National Institute for Health Research, Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, said while it was possible to engage in endless debate about the relative merits or adverse effects of one or other feature of the problem, the bigger challenge was to recognise that all points have relevance, and together, contribute to the complex and multifaceted nature of the problem. 

'Agree to work together'

“Thus, all parties​ [food producers, big food companies, government, supermarkets, media, schools, individuals] have a part of the solution within their gift and the need is to agree to work together for a common solution that can be acceptable to all,” ​said Jackson

He also highlighted the food industry’s special responsibility. “The food industry carries a special, heavy responsibility because of its enormous economic power, resource and capability to influence and modify individual choice and behaviour.  This power and opportunity can and should be used for better outcomes and needs to be deployed in an open and transparent way,”​ he said. 

“The food industry has lost the trust of many parts of society and collectively they will have to work very hard to regain that trust.  Failure to accept this and work in the agreed direction of improvement should meet with a legislative response as appropriate.” 

Three influential groups – the Institute of Food Science & Technology, the British Dietetic Association and the Nutrition Society – backed the webinar, in a bid to introduce more science into the obesity debate.

Missed the webinar? You and your colleagues can listen at any time, any number of times to the broadcast by registering here​. 

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