FDF hits back at Olympics food criticism

By Gwen Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

FDF boss Ian Wright has hit back at criticism of his comments on food and drink sponsorship at the Olympics
FDF boss Ian Wright has hit back at criticism of his comments on food and drink sponsorship at the Olympics

Related tags: Fdf director general, Nutrition

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has hit back at claims it said non-western countries had welcomed less healthy food advertising at the Rio Olympics.

Pressure group Children’s Food Campaign (CFC) slammed FDF director general Ian Wright’s suggestion that non-western countries had “no problem​” with Coca-Cola and McDonald’s sponsorship of the Olympics.

In an interview for media publication Campaign, ​Wright was asked whether it was appropriate for Coca-Cola and McDonald to sponsor the Olympics.

Wright said the link between food and drink companies such as Coca-Cola and the Olympics helped promote sport and healthy lifestyles.

He went on to say: “You also have to remember that the source of the controversy is invariably western and metropolitan. Asian and Latin American countries have no problem with companies that behave responsibly.”

CFC slammed Wright’s claims as “ill-informed” ​and “patronising” ​and urged members of the Brazilian, Mexican, Chilean and South Korean embassies in the UK to seek an apology.

‘Statement is outrageous and wrong’

Pan-American Health Organisation and World Health Organisation regional advisor on nutrition Dr Fabio Gomes said: “The Food and Drink Federation’s statement is outrageous and wrong.

“If these companies did, indeed, act responsibly they would not advertise to children. They would not send their licensed clowns to Brazilian schools to hook children on their brands.

“They would not promote sugary drinks and energy-dense products that are not recommended by Brazil’s official food based dietary guidelines.”

Replying to the criticism, Wright said there were better ways to tackle obesity than removing food and drink sport sponsorship deals.

“The recent, ground-breaking McKinsey report​ ranked the most effective interventions to tackle obesity worldwide,” ​said Wright.

Portion control and reformulation of foods came out top, with restrictions on sports sponsorship nowhere on the list.

‘Less physical activity, not more’

“At a time when public health budgets are shrinking, restricting sports sponsorship from food and drink companies would result in less physical activity, not more.”

The FDF said that it had received no requests for an apology from any embassy and that Wright stood by his previous comment.

Coordinator of the CFC Malcom Clark said that the FDF was not taking the obesity strategies of countries like Brazil seriously.

“As their angry responses to the ​[FDF] makes clear, countries in Latin America and Asia take the health impact of junk food marketing as seriously as everywhere else,” ​said Clark.

“Ian Wright conveniently forgets that countries such as Mexico, Chile, Brazil, South Korea and Taiwan have been leading the way globally … to tackle obesity and excess sugar consumption.”


Rio Olympics 2016 – at a glance

  • Staged at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Officially known as the Games of the XXXI Olympiad
  • Runs from August 5–21 2016
  •  More than 11,000 athletes from 206 national Olympic committees
  • 28 Olympic Sports
  • An estimated 3bn people will watch the opening ceremony

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