Ultra-Processed Profits: The Political Economy of Countering the Global Spread of Ultra-Processed Foods - A Synthesis Review on the Market and Political Practices of Transnational Food Corporations and Strategic Public Health Responses

Moodie, Rob, Bennett, Elizabeth, Kwong, Edwin Jit Leung, Santos, Thiago M., Pratiwi, Liza, Williams, Joanna, and Baker, Phillip (2021) Ultra-Processed Profits: The Political Economy of Countering the Global Spread of Ultra-Processed Foods - A Synthesis Review on the Market and Political Practices of Transnational Food Corporations and Strategic Public Health Responses. International Journal of Health Policy and Management, 10 (12). pp. 968-982.

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Ultra-processed food (UPF) and Ultra-processed beverage (UPB) consumption is associated with higher risks of numerous non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Yet global consumption of these products is rising due to profound changes in production, processing, manufacturing, marketing, retail, and consumption practices, alongside the growth of the resources and political influence of Big Food. Whilst the sales of UPFs and UPBs in high-income countries (HICs) are stagnating, sales are rapidly expanding in more populous middle-income countries (MICs). In this paper, we adopt a political economy of food systems approach to understand how growth of Big Food in MICs drives the NCD pandemic.

METHODS: We conducted a mixed methods synthesis review. This involved quantitative data collection and development of descriptive statistics; a search for academic, market and grey literature on the expansion of UPF in MICs; and the development of themes, three illustrative case examples (South Africa, Colombia, and Indonesia), and synthesis of the enablers of successful campaigns in MICs into recommendations for public health campaigns.

RESULTS: We project that the combined sales volume of UPFs in MICs will reach equivalency with HICs by 2024, and the total sales volume of UPBs in MICs is already significantly higher than in HICs. Similarly, annual growth in UPF sales is higher in MICs compared to HICs. We also show how Big Food has entrenched its presence within MICs through establishing global production and hyper-local distribution networks, scaling up its marketing, challenging government policies and scientific expertise, and co-opting civil society. We argue that public health can counter the influence of Big Food by developing an expanded global network of driven and passionate people with diverse skillsets, and advocating for increased government leadership.

CONCLUSION: The projected increase in sales of UPFs and UPBs in MICs raises major concerns about the global capacity to prevent and treat NCDs.

Item ID: 72987
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2322-5939
Keywords: Advocacy, Corporate Power, Corporations, Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, Ultra-Processed Foods
Copyright Information: © 2021 The Author(s); Published by Kerman University of Medical Sciences. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date Deposited: 10 May 2022 01:52
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