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.
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.
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.
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