by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Food-industry

Feb 20 2019

What is a portion size? The British Nutrition Foundation’s answer

Lisa Young, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim, has long argued that portion control is the key to maintaining healthy weight.

Now, the industry-funded (see list here) British Nutrition Foundation has issued a “handy” guide to appropriate portion sizes.

I put “handy” in quotes because the system is based on hand measurements.

The guide tells you how many servings you are supposed to have each day from each of the major food groups, and how to tell the serving size for a very long list of foods.

I find all of this hugely complicated, and don’t think you should need to learn what looks like a guide to sign language to know how to eat.

I’m especially suspicious because the Nutrition Foundation is an industry-sponsored group and it is very much in the interest of the food industry to have you take full responsibility for controlling your own food intake.  If you eat too much, it’s your fault for not learning this system.

How about food companies making and serving smaller portions?  Nope.  It’s up to you to take greater personal responsibility for what you eat.

Try this for yourself and see what I mean.

  • The guide is here.
  • The full list of portion sizes is here.
  • A one-page summary is here.
Jan 29 2019

My latest honor: “Crankster!”

I don’t usually pay attention to what the American Council for Science and Health (ACSH) says or does, mainly because it is a long-standing front group for the food and chemical industries, and it predictably supports the interests of those industries over public health (see US Right to Know’s analysis).

But then I read this from the Center on Media and Democracy: Corporate Front Group, American Council on Science and Health, Smears List of Its Enemies as “Deniers for Hire.”

Smeared by the site are scientists Tyrone Hayes, Stephanie Seneff, and Gilles-Éric Séralini; New York Times reporter Danny Hakim and columnist Mark Bittman; well-known food and science writer Michael Pollan; nutrition and food studies professor Marion Nestle; public interest groups like U.S. Right to Know, Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club, the Environmental Working Group, and Union of Concerned Scientists; past and present CMD staff, and many other individuals ACSH does not like.

Clearly, I’m in good company.  But what, exactly, have I—a “Crankster,” apparently—done to deserve this honor?  It seems that I:

What can I say?  Read my work and decide for yourself if such concerns are justified.

Sep 11 2018

Why food companies should not have a role in formulating obesity policy

I was interested to read FoodNavigator-Asia’s account of food industry comments on what to do about obesity is Australia.

By all reports, two-thirds of Australian adults meet definitions of overweight or obesity, along with a quarter of all children.  A Senate committee is collecting ideas about what to do about this, including those from the food industry.

Food-Navigator-Asia has taken a look at some of the submitted comments, particularly in light of comments from medical groups encouraging social, environmental, regulatory and medical interventions, and arguing that food companies should be kept out of formulating policies due to their inherent conflicts of interest.

The article quotes three companies.

Coca-Cola Amatil says taxes would be counterproductive because it is already reducing the sugar in its products.

Fonterra (a dairy company) says obesity is not the problem; instead, underconsumption of dairy products is the problem.

Nestlé [no relation] blames consumers; it is trying to reduce salt and sugar in its products but the public isn’t buying them.  It also blames government, which it says should do a better job of educating the public about diet and health.

Obesity poses a formidable problem for food companies making junk foods.  They have stockholders to please.  They cannot be expected to voluntarily act in the interest of public health if doing so affects profits.

That is why food companies should have no role whatsoever in developing policies to prevent or treat obesity.

Jul 6 2018

Weekend Reading: Food Citizenship (I’m in it)

Ray Goldberg.  Food Citizenship: Food System Advocates in an Era of Distrust. Oxford University Press, 2018.

As should be obvious from this cover, I have a special interest in this book.  For more than 20 years, I’ve been attending an annual meeting of food industry executives, entrepreneurs, and a sprinkling of advocates, government officials, and academics brought together by its author, Ray Goldberg, to try to encourage mutual understanding if not agreement.

When the meeting started, Ray was an agribusiness professor at the Harvard Business School.  After his retirement, the meeting moved to the Kennedy School of Government.  It still continues.

This book consists of Ray’s interviews with dozens of people who have attended this meeting over the years.  Ray interviewed people with an enormous range of involvement in food as well as of opinion about what should be done to improve food systems.

If truth be told, I always felt like a spectator at this meeting, and I am enormously surprised and honored to see that my interview comes first in the book, and that Ray mentions it in his introduction and conclusion.

I think the book is worth reading.  Or, as it happens, watching.

Oxford has posted the videotaped interviews online.  Here’s mine.

Jun 15 2018

Keeping tabs on the food industry: Access to Nutrition Index

Access to Nutrition has just published its 2018 global report.  Its Global Index:

Measures companies’ contributions to good nutrition against international norms and standards and includes a separate ranking of the world´s leading manufacturers of breast-milk substitutes (BMS).

The report summarizes its findings:

The 2018 Index shows the world’s biggest F&B companies have stepped up their efforts to encourage better diets, mostly through new and updated nutrition strategies and policies, improved commitments on affordability and accessibility, better performance on nutrition labeling and health and nutrition claims, and more disclosure of information across categories. Nevertheless, ATNF has serious concerns about the healthiness of the world’s largest global F&B manufacturers’ product portfolios.

Access to Nutrition ranks the European companies, Nestlé, Unilever, and Danone, highest on its lists.

Its “serious concerns”?

  • Poorly defined reformulation targets
  • Unclear approaches to making healthy products for affordable and accessibe
  • Continued irresponsible marketing to children
  • Inadequate employee education programs
  • Inadequate support to breastfeeding mothers
  • Inadequate labeling
  • Inadequate support for public health measures

On this last one:

Indeed.

 

 

Jun 12 2018

Biggest global food companies, according to Forbes

Forbes has published a ranking of the top 2000 global companies (all kinds, not just food) by a composite score of revenue, profit, assets, and market value.

Forbes summarizes some of the information for food processing companies.  By its measure, Anheuser Busch, Nestlé, and PepsiCo are the top three.

Coca-Cola, however, ranks #209, a big drop from last year’s #86.  It did not have a good year last year.

You can sort the list by name or category.  I did that for four categories: Beverage, Food processing, Food retail, and Restaurants.

Walmart does not show up as a food retailer; Forbes considers it a Discount Store, even though food accounts for nearly half of Walmart’s revenues, nearly $200 billion a year.

Here are the food, beverage, retail, and restaurants that show up as among the top 250 companies, worldwide.  I only included sales and profits in this  table; you would have to add in assets and market value to understand the ranking system.

Food, beverage, retail, and restaurant companies among the biggest 250 companies worldwide.

RANK  COMPANY SALES

$ Billions

PROFITS

$ Billions

24 Walmart, US 500.3*  9.9
41 Anheuser-Busch, Belgium  56.4  7.9
48 Nestlé, Switzerland  91.2  7.3
102 PepsiCo, US  64.0  4.9
103 Unilever, Netherlands  60.6  6.8
126 Kraft-Heinz, US  26.2  11.1
209 Coca-Cola, US  33.7  1.4
211 Mondelēz International, US  26.2  3.2
239 Danone, France  27.8  2.8
241 McDonald’s, US  22.3  5.4

*About 40% of sales are from food.

This is why Walmart is the elephant in the food-business room.

May 29 2018

Pay inequality in the food business

The New York Times describes the enormous gap between the pay of company chief executives and their employees.

Its two printed pages of lists compare CEO total annual compensation (in millions of dollars) to the median pay of employees (in $ thousands).  

Median means half the employees get that amount or more, but the other half gets that amount or less.

I looked for the data on companies that produce, food, beverage, or agricultural products.  I could not find many (where is Coca-Cola?).  Several of the companies of interest—Monsanto, Sysco, and Procter & Gamble, for example—list the pay of the CEOs, but not employees.

Even so, the comparison is striking.  Repeat: CEO pay is in $ millions; worker pay is in $ thousands.

COMPANY CEO TOTAL ANNUAL

COMPENSATION,

$ MILLIONS

MEDIAN WORKER PAY,

$ THOUSANDS

Mondelez   42.4   42.9
Weight Watchers   33.4     6.0
PepsiCo   25.9   47.8
Walmart   22.2   19.2
McDonald’s   21.8    7.0
Archer Daniels Midland   15.8   57.3

The Times interactive lists provide calculations of the ratios (and its account explains the limitations of these data—part-time work, etc).

If you need quantifiable evidence for income inequality, here it is.

Dec 27 2017

Planet Fat: The New York Times series on global obesity

Since September, the New York Times has been investigating how the food industry markets its products in the developing world, and how this marketing is encouraging a rising prevalence of obesity and its health consequences. The series is called Planet Fat.   This is the complete set to date, in reverse chronological order.

If you haven’t read them, this week is a good time to catch up.  Enjoy!

One Man’s Stand Against Junk Food as Diabetes Climbs Across India

India is “sitting on a volcano” of diabetes. A father’s effort to ban junk food sales in and near schools aims to change what children eat.

Dec. 26, 2017

 

Dec. 23, 2017

 

Dec. 11, 2017

 

Nov. 13, 2017

 

Oct. 2, 2017

 

Oct. 2, 2017

 

Sept. 16, 2017

 

Sept. 17, 2017