Holding the food industry to account for their role in obesity prevention: a proposed monitoring approach (#116)
Private sector organisations play a critical role in shaping the food environments of individuals and populations. However, there is currently very limited independent monitoring of private sector actions related to food environments. This paper outlines a proposed approach to monitor private sector policies and practices related to food environments, and their influence on obesity and non-communicable disease (NCD) prevention. This has been developed by INFORMAS (International Network for Food and Obesity / NCD Research, Monitoring and Action Support) – a global network of public-interest organisations and researchers that aims to monitor, benchmark and support public and private sector actions to create healthy food environments and reduce obesity, NCDs and their related inequalities.
The corporate accountability literature and previous studies that have monitored food companies were reviewed, and a step-wise approach to monitoring private sector policies and practices proposed. In the first (‘minimal’) step, publicly-available food and nutrition-related policies of selected private sector organisations are collated. In the second (‘expanded’) step, the nutritional composition of each organisation’s products, their promotions to children, their labelling practices, and the accessibility, availability and affordability of their products are assessed. The third (‘optimal’) step includes data on other commercial activities that may influence food environments, such as political lobbying and corporate philanthropy.
The proposed approach will be piloted in countries of varying size and income levels. There is potential for this approach to enable national and international benchmarking of private sector policies and practices, and to inform efforts to hold the private sector to account for their role in obesity and NCD prevention.