The title of this discussion calls out for a clarification of terminology. The “private sector” embraces a large continuum of companies, from the very small enterprise to the large multinational. It is clear that at the two extremes of this continuum, these two types of companies don’t play the same role, don’t affect the market in the same way and in what concerns us here don’t relate to nutrition and health in the same manner. Hence, I think it is obviously misleading to put all these companies in the same basket and to call on the civil society to “collaborate” with them indistinguishably is pure decoy.
I would like to refer to the excellent paper published in February 2013 in the prestigious journal The Lancet: Moodie et al. 2013. Profits and pandemics: prevention of harmful effects of tobacco, alcohol, and ultra-processed food and drink industries. The Lancet NCD Action Group. The Lancet, vol 381, Issue 9867, pages 670-679, 23 February 2013.
I invite the participants of this discussion to read this excellent article and I cite here its key messages:
“• Transnational corporations are major drivers of non-communicable disease epidemics and profit from increased consumption of tobacco, alcohol, and ultra-processed food and drink (so-called unhealthy commodities)
• Alcohol and ultra-processed food and drink industries use similar strategies to the tobacco industry to undermine effective public health policies and programmes
• Unhealthy commodity industries should have no role in the formation of national or international policy for non-communicable disease policy
• Despite the common reliance on industry self-regulation and public–private partnerships to improve public health, there is no evidence to support their effectiveness or safety
• In view of the present and predicted scale of non-communicable disease epidemics, the only evidence-based mechanisms that can prevent harm caused by unhealthy commodity industries are public regulation and market intervention.”
As clear from the conclusions of The Lancet NCD Action Group, some constituents of what’s quite loosely called “the private sector”, namely in the field of nutrition and health, the producers and distributors of ultra-processed foods, should be rigorously controlled by the States; in this control, the civil society can play a role. The illusion of “public-private partnership” need in the same way to be demystified.