The highly-regarded Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health this week published the seventh annual edition of “F as in Fat”, a report on obesity in the U.S. The report includes commentary by a variety of notable public figures. Among them is PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi.
The fact that the report would include comments from the leader of a food company, particularly one whose product portfolio includes treats like soft drinks and potato chips, has drawn some criticism. The critics seem to feel there is no place for a food industry viewpoint in such a report.
To suggest PepsiCo and other food companies should not have a voice in the discussion of how to address global obesity seems counterproductive.
The UK Foresight Report on Obesity and the White House Report on Obesity both have spelled out roles industry can play in preventing obesity in children. And leading food companies, including PepsiCo, have made specific commitments to obesity prevention.
Industry efforts include: reducing portion sizes and energy density through reformulation and replacement; altering marketing to make healthy choices easier; improving labeling; replacing certain products in schools; investing in research on satiety; and evolving business models to shift focus from volume to nutrition quality.
Before turning a cold shoulder on the food industry, consider how other large-scale problems have been addressed. In my 10 years at the World Health Organization I saw private-public partnerships tangibly improve people’s lives by helping to tackle challenges ranging from AIDS and polio to motor vehicle injuries and child survival. In every case, initial mistrust gave way to new solutions with real benefits.