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October 6, 2010

Response of the Food and Beverage Industry to the Obesity Threat

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Emory Global Health Institute, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia (Dr Koplan); and The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (Dr Brownell).

JAMA. 2010;304(13):1487-1488. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1436

To avoid public criticism and forestall government intervention, the food and beverage industry hopes that self-regulation is sufficient1 and also seeks to establish public-private partnerships. This reaction is common in industries under threat and can take helpful or harmful forms.

Industry self-regulation can sometimes work in the public interest, with forestry and fisheries serving as examples.1,2 Public-private partnerships can also promote health. For instance, donations by pharmaceutical companies of mectizan for river blindness, mebendazole to eliminate intestinal parasites, and azithromycin to treat trachoma have supported health agencies and benefited millions of persons with debilitating diseases. The food industry has demonstrated its ability to contribute to the public's health through folate fortification of flour and bread products, a productive public-private collaboration aimed at reducing rates of neural tube defects. In other cases, such as tobacco, self-regulation and public-private partnerships have a long history of undermining public health.3

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