The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has hit out at the British Medical Journal’s (BMJ) latest report which says the food industry shares the blame for the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.
In its article entitled ‘Obesity and Covid-19: the role of the food industry’ it says that due to a lack of fresh food during lockdown, consumers were pushed towards a greater consumption of highly processed foods and those with long shelf lives that are usually high in salt, sugar, and saturated fat.
It continued by saying: “Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic the food industry has launched campaigns and corporate social responsibility initiatives, often with thinly veiled tactics using the outbreak as a marketing opportunity (for example, by offering half a million “smiles” in the form of doughnuts to NHS staff).
“Food industries around the world must immediately stop promoting, and governments must force reformulation of, unhealthy foods and drinks. In the UK, incremental targets have already gradually reduced the amount of salt added to foods, resulting in lower salt intake, blood pressure, and cardiovascular mortality. Reducing salt, sugar, and saturated fat across the board would improve the diet of the entire population and bring even greater benefits for people who are most socially deprived. The toll of morbidity and mortality from Covid-19 has made this more apparent and more urgent than ever.”
“To blame the food industry for the Covid-19 mortality rate is deeply offensive. Millions of key workers across the supply chain have continued to work throughout this pandemic and are hidden heroes, keeping Britain fed.”
Tom Rycroft, COO of the Food and Drink Federation, commented: “To blame the food industry for the Covid-19 mortality rate is deeply offensive. Millions of key workers across the supply chain have continued to work throughout this pandemic and are hidden heroes, keeping Britain fed.
“Food and drink manufacturers are fully engaged with a wide range of government-led initiatives designed to tackle the huge public health challenge of obesity. FDF members’ voluntary work is already delivering substantial changes. Compared to four years ago, FDF member products contribute 11% less calories, 11% fewer sugars, and 14% less salt to the average shopping basket.
“We believe the Government should now invest money in specific measures that support those people and areas most affected by obesity. We believe a whole lifestyle approach will be most effective, focusing on how we achieve a balanced diet and keep active, and not on any single nutrient.”
Monique Tan, PhD researcher at Queen Mary University that published the report, told Sky News: “The current situation in the UK is we have 65% of the adult population who is overweight or obese. That is not normal, you cannot blame individuals anymore when you have most of the population that is overweight or obese.
“There’s something wrong with the environment and in this environment, we are bombarded with advertising, marketing, promotion of unhealthy, processed foods that are high in sugars, processed fats and salts. These foods are very cheap and when we eat them, we don’t feel full for long, so we tend to overeat them. It is the food industry who is putting these foods onto us and it is the food industry who shaped this environment.”