Dietary Public Health Research and the Food Industry

Towards a consensus?

9.30am – 3.30pm, Friday 11 December 2015
Crausaz Wordsworth Building, Robinson College Cambridge

Please note that the outputs of this meeting are now being taken forward through the Dietary Public Health Research and the Food Industry project.

Almost all the food that we eat passes through commercial companies, and whether it is through voluntary action, public pressure, or government legislation, little will change in the production, distribution and marketing of food without concerted industry action. Commercial enterprise’s primary responsibility is to maximise profit for their shareholders. Some of the actions required to improve dietary public health are likely to be at odds with this goal.

Researchers who study food choices and population diet need to understand how the food industry shapes our diets, and if and how they can work with industry, policymakers and the third sector to find solutions to pressing dietary public health problems.

This area arouses strong feelings and raises many questions. For instance, can public health researchers work with the food industry in a way that does not undermine their scientific integrity? Does collaboration with industry harm public trust in science and the advice scientists give to policymakers? Are industry players willing to share data that could provide important public health insight?

This event brought together an invited group of dietary public health researchers, those who understand the food industry, and policymakers with a range of perspectives on these and other questions. It was a forum for debate and dialogue between all participants led by experienced facilitator and journalist Vivienne Parry.

No industry funding or sponsorship was received for the event. It did not include any individuals actively employed by the food industry, although we did invite some with recent experience and perspectives of this sector.

Event report

A report of the meeting is available to download. This has been shared with meeting participants to ensure that it is as fair and accurate a reflection of discussions as possible. Subsequently it was also shared more widely for other contributions from those in the public health community.

The work arising from this event and document are now being taken forward by a project led by CEDAR that is conducting further research, review and consensus building in this area. Further updates will follow soon.