by Marion Nestle
Sep 8 2011

No Surprise: Corporate responsibility works better for corporations than public health

A new report just out from the Children’s Food Campaign of Sustain, a food advocacy group in the UK, says that its government’s Responsibility Deal with the food industry about marketing practices is good for food companies but not so effective for public health.


The report finds that the UK government’s Responsibility Deal is “likely to fail because industry commitments are weak, voluntary, and ignored by numerous big food companies.”

The UK Coalition Government launched its Public Health Responsibility Deal in March 2011. This covered five areas—food, alcohol, physical activity, health in the workplace, and behavior change.

The core of the Deal is voluntary partnership with industry.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley promised industry that the Deal would be “built on social responsibility, not state regulation.”   Instead, government would promote personal responsibility for health choices and voluntary agreements with companies.

Predictably, the report lists 33 national food companies that have failed to commit to one or more voluntary pledges on:

  • ‘out of home’ calorie labelling (including Costa, Pizza Express and Subway)
  • salt reduction (including Burger King, KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Wimpy)
  • artificial trans fat removal (including Harvester, Wetherspoons and Sodexo)

It also lists 13 well known companies, including Birds Eye, Budgens, Domino’s Pizza and Nandos that failed to sign up to any health pledges at all.

The campaign concludes: “food pledges are underwhelming.”

So much for voluntary partnerships and alliances.  Nobody should be surprised.


  • D

    How does this bode for the “unprecedented” WWH Walmart White House agreement?

  • Cathy Richards

    Yale Rudd Center on Obesity and Food Policy had a good report on voluntary corporate guidelines, comparing food industry self-regulation to alcohol & tobacco self-regulation which of course didn’t work and required legislation with tight monitoring.
    It’s on their website, easily googled.

  • Jonesy

    Look at the positive. Now that there is ample actual evidence that most of the self-regulation, good citizen pledges are made in bad faith, is time to up the ante.

    Yes, it is also obvious that the likes of the “Center for Consumer Freedom” and their paid bloggers are also using tobacco PR tactics. Just google something like – Tobacco industry public relations strategies – and you can read big lists of all the familiar and tired levers of manipulation. One may also count PR hacks lack of imagination as a plus.

  • Anthro

    Would I be sad if these food companies were regulated out of business? Only for any loss of jobs it would cause.

    Would I be sorry that these company’s shareholders would make less money off the ill health of children? Not one bit.

    This “food” is pushed onto children in an unending stream of advertising that touches every aspect of their lives–no matter how diligent their parents may be. The companies do it because their shareholders demand it. Regulation is the only way to trump naked greed.

  • It’s mission creep. If they are sususecfcl, then here comes the excuse to raise other taxes. But, they won’t be. Smokers actually save money in health care costs. How? By dying sooner! End-of-life medical expences are pretty much the same, on average. Lung cancer kills fast. Diabetes, Alzheimers, other cancers, heart failure, etc. can kill very slow, racking up huge bills, all the while one is still on social security in assisted care facilities. The sooner you die after you are no longer a taxpayer, then the less of a burden you are. That sounds harsh, and it’s not a happy thought, but it is irrefutably true.Bottom line; they just want to confiscate more of our cash, from every source possible. Any excuse will do.