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.
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.
The latest intervention in the diet and health debate in the UK hit the headlines on 1 April. It was not an April Fool but the findings of research from University College London that we should be eating seven portions of fruit or veg a day may have prompted a wry smile from those who struggle to get near the 'five-a-day' recommendation.
Some campaigners believe the WHO's new guidance on sugar intake did not go far enough and are concerned the organisation will face lobbying from industry. Food manufacturers insist there is no scientific evidence to halve the recommendation from 10% of daily energy to 5%. Governments can, of course, ignore any new guidance. However, Ben Cooper argues the debate around public health and diet has changed and could make the WHO a more influential voice.
In London this week, UK Groceries Code Adjudicator Christine Tacon outlined what her position was - and was not - set up to do. However, Ben Cooper argues her role has wider implications than policing the relationship between retailers and their suppliers.
The leading health experts behind the Action on Sugar campaign, launched last week, believe the success in driving down salt intake in the UK following the launch of the Consensus Action on Salt and Health campaign can be replicated with sugar. Ben Cooper has his doubts.
The upbeat response to the most recent announcement concerning the sustainability of palm oil owes little to such cultural pre-programming or seasonal hyperbole. The commitment to the sustainable production and sourcing of palm oil made by Wilmar International is, quite simply, extremely good news, writes Ben Cooper.
As it has done elsewhere, the food industry is opposing the imposition of a tax on sugary drinks and high-calorie foods in Mexico. The industry has been generally successful in forestalling the imposition of nutrient taxes and its reasons for opposition - such taxes are ineffective and regressive - carry some weight. But when industry is seen to have prevailed in debates purely by dint of massive lobbying power, issues of trust and credibility inevitably arise.
Children's food advertising is no longer on the Obama policy agenda but the administration is still actively engaged on the issue, as last month's event at the White House demonstrates.
The Global Salmon Initiative (GSI), a joint commitment to raising sustainability standards signed by 15 major producers of farmed salmon, has been hailed as a game changer. Ben Cooper casts his eye over the new accord.
The World Health Organization's combative director-general has publicly hit out at the "business interests" of what she calls "Big Food", which, she claims presents a "daunting challenge" to improving public health. As Ben Cooper reports, the food industry has chosen not to respond.
The debate over what form front-of-pack nutrition labels should take in the UK has taken a significant stride to being closed, with over 60% of the market agreeing to use a new label that does include traffic lights. Not every household name will use the label but Ben Cooper argues the refuseniks will now be firmly in the campaigners' firing line.
The problem of food waste is due to the low value people in the West put on cheap food. And cheap food is a product, in part, of the modern, industrial food system. However, amid some scepticism, the industry is trying to act on the problem. Ben Cooper argues, ultimately, the dynamics of supply and demand will right the situation.
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