Attention food companies!
As a dietitian, food companies are regularly in contact to highlight steps they are taking to improve the nutritional profile of the foods they offer. There is no doubt that such initiatives have increased over the past fifteen years as many of the big players including McDonalds, Coca Cola, Uncle Toby’s and Kellogg’s have sought to bring new healthier products to market and make significant changes to formulations in an attempt to cut sugar, fat, calories or all of the above. While these are all positive initiatives there is nothing worse than a token attempt. Offering a sh**ty salad for an inflated price at a fast food chain which is simultaneously marketing $2 meal deals is no more useful than offering a new soft drink that still contains added sugar. These moves are at best an attempt at some positive PR with no likely benefit for the nation’s health. So if food companies are really serious about making a difference and don’t want to be criticised for actively contributing to the obesity epidemic, this is what really needs to happen.
1. Stop making the shittiest of crap foods
It may be a large sized soft drink, the most sugary cereal or the biggest fruit smoothie but any food that has literally no nutritional benefits for many, many calories needs to go, or cost significantly more than it does so the extra revenue can be donated to health.
2. Cut the calories in all products, not just one or two
Offering a couple of healthy options does not change sugar or calorie consumption of a country, but cutting the calories and sugars across an entire range does, particularly for large franchises serving hundreds of thousands of Australians every day.
3. Stop with the token efforts
If the only reason you are doing it is for some positive PR stop wasting your time. The public can see right through and you lose credibility. If you are basically selling crappy food unfortunately you are going to continue to see sliding sales as the public becomes more aware of what they are eating and what is in your food. It’s better to let your shareholders know now rather than try and mislead people and tell them you are really doing some good when you are actually doing mostly bad.
4. Donate some more money to health
Someone is going to have to pay for obesity in the country over the next 10-20 years. If you are selling high calorie, high fat products consider donating more of your profits to health services that actively help to manage and prevent childhood obesity.
5. Think in terms of being socially responsible
Ultimately taking a stance against actively contributing to the obesity epidemic means that food companies need to think of acting socially responsible rather than for what they think is the right thing to do. If your product is contributing significant amounts of sugar and poor quality calories into the food supply, the question you need to ask yourself is ‘am I acting in a socially responsible way?’. If the answer is no, it may be time to have a serious think about the core of the business you are involved in.