February 17, 2013
Australia's industrialised food system, with the two big supermarkets (Woolworths and Coles) at the centre, is one that is driven to relentlessly squeeze its suppliers so as to keep prices down and profits up. This in turn results in the constant driving down of the quality of the raw materials used in processed meals. This food is then eaten by people hooked on cheap, easy and overly plentiful food.
If the powerful food companies obtain profits by extracting unreasonable concessions from primary producers and workers in the food system, the price of food in Australia is expensive whilst processed and junk food is a major cause of obesity. Foods high in salt, fat, sugar and calories are unfortunately a great way for the industry to make good profits.
As is remarked here:
It’s for very good commercial reasons that the food industry systematically waters down public health reform proposals and plays a central role in influencing public behaviour through sophisticated marketing practices, without concern for the long-term health outcomes.
It is self-regulation for marketing junk and processed food --ie., the market will deliver healthy outcomes.
What underpins the food industry approach are the neo-liberal verities:-- the market is unalloyed magic, business must always be unshackled from "wealth-destroying" regulation, that the state must be shrunk, inequality is good for wealth creation, the end of economics is wealth creation, and that capitalism always organises itself to deliver the best outcomes. So there is no need for the government to regulate Big Food to be socially responsible.
The political reality is one in which:
governments fear the power of the many industries associated with the obesity epidemic. It’s not just the producers, manufacturers and retail giants, but also the advertisers, public relations companies and media. All have major economic interests in marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages, including alcoholic drinks.
At some point a political stand needs to be taken by governments in the name of public health.