WHO says it has not been bought off by the food and beverage industry

Flickr, su-lin

A month ago, some investigative reporters at Reuters did a big expose article contending the World Health Organization had been compromised in its efforts to combat non-communicable diseases — aka NCDs like obesity, diabetes and heart disease — by allowing the food and beverage industry too much influence over its public health initiatives.

Here’s a rebuttal from WHO Director-General Margaret Chan ‘setting the record straight,’ which was issued on Monday. Chan says:

The private sector plays an important role along with other key stakeholders in taking action to improve health. When WHO works with the private sector, the Organization takes all possible measures to ensure its work to develop policy and guidelines is protected from industry influence.

But the point of the Reuters article, written by Duff Wilson and Adam Kerlin, wasn’t just saying WHO takes money from the food and beverage industry. It reports on the level of political and internal influence afforded to these industries who now make a lot of money selling some products that are widely regarded as unhealthy and disease-promoting.

I reported on this a year ago, from the UN General Assembly meeting, noting that even at the much-celebrated launch of the push against NCDs there was a push-back from some in the food and beverage industry. The result was a pretty wishy washy statement about eating healthy, promoting healthy lifestyles, etc.

Here’s another report from IP Watch on Chan’s defense of the WHO’s protections against conflict of interest.

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Editor Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom-at-humanosphere.org, follow him on Twitter @tompaulson and/or send a comment below.