McDonald’s – the very embodiment of unhealthy eating – has introduced salads, struck a deal with the Heart Foundation, and in New Zealand, has a relationship with Weight Watchers. There are numerous other recent examples of food industry moves to moderate and self-regulate in the interests of healthier food options. Still, the food companies take the blame for the obesity problem.

Health groups in Australia used Easter Sunday, one of the most gluttonous days of the year to call foe restrictions on junk food and alcohol advertising. Public Health Association of Australia president Mike Daube said voluntary, self-regulated advertising codes had led to more than half a billion dollars being spent promoting booze and burgers each year.

“(The codes) completely ignore forms of marketing like sports sponsorship through which children are exposed to alcohol and junk food promotion for hours on end,” he said. Professor Daube wants the government to draw up laws to enforce mandatory advertising codes, and backs calls to impose a levy on alcohol and junk food advertising.

“The alcohol and food industries will never agree to effective controls on their irresponsible promotions,” he said. “We urge all parties to make a commitment to legislation that will curb the ruthless way young people are being exposed to promotion of alcohol and junk food.”

For all their attempts at conciliation, food companies just get demonised more. Each effort is condemned. If everything they do is going to be dismissed as the cynical expansion of corporate power, why should they try?

Many public health activists believe the blame for obesity lies with corporations – not with the choices of the people who buy unhealthy food. Reducing the capacity of corporations to advertise their products won’t stop people wanting fatty or salty food. (Or chocolate!). Unless you believe our primal taste instincts were invented in a boardroom.

Opinion: Chris Berg, SMH

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