Study: ‘Big Food’ Taking Over Third World

Sept. 21, 2021
Ultra-processed foods are increasingly penetrating lower-income nations thanks to a concerted effort by the food industry, according to a new study.

Ultra-processed foods are increasingly penetrating lower-income nations thanks to a concerted effort by the food industry, according to a new study.

The study, “Ultra-Processed Profits,” by health and nutrition academics from Australia, Indonesia and Brazil, predicts that the sales of ultra-processed foods in middle-income countries will match those for high-income countries by 2024, and that the rate of sales growth is higher for those poorer countries. The authors frame this as public-health issue, since ultra-processed foods are often high in fat, sugar, sodium and other undesirable nutrients.

The authors delineate several ways in which what they call “Big Food” gains ground in developing nations. These include: Buying up local food companies; investing in plants and other facilities, which often enlists the local government in a project; creating extensive distribution networks that can extend to door-to-door sales; and fighting local initiatives for healthy eating.

They call for a “transnational approach” to resisting these encroachments. “A truly cooperative approach between international organizations, governments, and civil society...can rein in the harmful activities of Big Food globally,” they say in a statement. “People's health must be prioritized over corporate profits.”

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