In a regular column, just-food contributing editor Ben Cooper chews over how the industry is tackling issues from obesity to labelling and from child labour to its environmental impact.
Two pieces of research in Europe on trans fat underline the complexity of dietary science and, therefore, the formulation of product development strategies and public health messages. Ben Cooper reports.
The rise in the incidence of child labour in west African cocoa production detailed in last week's report from Tulane University is a disappointment to all those working to address the issue, including food companies. While the statistics reveal some relative improvements and give ground for optimism, Ben Cooper writes, the abiding message has to be that more must be done.
A panel advising the UK government on nutrition has recommended halving the official guidance on the consumption of free sugars. Attention now turns to how the country's politicians will respond. Ben Cooper argues the UK government should act - but some policies are more likely than others.
The use of antibiotics in the rearing of animals has been a much discussed issue in recent weeks, with regulatory and corporate moves across a number of countries. Ben Cooper examines recent events in the context of the widespread concern over antimicrobial resistance.
A report has criticised the UK's Public Health Responsibility Deal, a set of voluntary programmes that has seen industry work with government and public health professionals to try improve the country's health. Ben Cooper argues opponents of the scheme should not automatically see the report as vindication but insists the Deal has work to do address the report's findings.
Campaigners would contend companies do not often make progressive moves on issues of public concern until pressure has been exerted on them to do so. In the food sector, there is a fair deal of historical evidence to support this, so moves like the one Mars Inc has made on the labelling of added sugar in the US are somewhat rare.
Codes governing the relationships between retailers and manufacturers have made headlines in the UK and Australia. However, recent headlines in the UK have shone a spotlight on dealings between manufacturers and their suppliers - and Ben Cooper mulls whether the scrutiny could move towards that part of the supply chain.
With a call for nutrient taxes and linking the impact of diet on the environment, the advisory committee's recommendations for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans has been met with criticism by parts of the food industry. Ben Cooper argues the committee deserves praise.
The possibility environmental criteria might form the latest version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans has provoked intense debate in the US, with the meat industry in strong opposition. The guidelines will be updated this year and politics may mean green issues are not considered. Ben Cooper argues ultimately that must change.
Research suggesting the price gap between healthier and less healthy foods is widening will have been greeted with concern by public health experts and policymakers. Food companies should be worried too but, Ben Cooper argues, they should also be encouraged by the direction this research may take the debate.
Amid the headlines about the UK's plan to set up a food crime unit, Professor Chris Elliott's full report into the UK supply chain has reignited what was a fierce debate - the role of the Food Standards Agency, writes Ben Cooper.
It may seem cruelly ironic the UK faces what is frequently dubbed an "obesity epidemic" while hospital admissions for malnutrition have risen by 19% over the past year. Ironic perhaps, but not surprising. Ben Cooper argues food education and cooking skills would be a simple measure to tackle the issue.
Last week, medical professionals, industry representatives, policy advisors and others gathered in London to discuss the health impacts of sugar consumption and what government and food companies can do to mitigate them. Ben Cooper was there.
Oxfam's latest analysis of the food industry's efforts on to tackle climate change demonstrates how the NGO can partner with industry at time but still play a role in handing out stinging criticism where necessary, Ben Cooper believes.
The considerable attention given to the topic of food wastage over the past couple of years has ensured the issue has grown both in public awareness and also as a priority for companies and policymakers seeking to make the global food system more sustainable.
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