“Conflicted” Conceptions of Conflict of Interest: How the Commercial Sector Responses to the WHO Tool on Conflict of Interest in Nutrition Policy Are Part of Their Standard Playbook to Undermine Public Health; Comment on “Towards Preventing and Managing Conflict of Interest in Nutrition Policy? An Analysis of Submissions to a Consultation on a Draft WHO Tool”

Document Type : Commentary


Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia


Managing conflict of interest (CoI) among the interested stake-holders in nutrition policy is a vexed and controversial issue. This commentary builds on Ralston and colleagues’ highly informative analysis of the 44 submissions to the World Health Organization (WHO) draft tool on preventing and managing CoI in national nutrition programs. The commentary proposes that the commercial sector actors are, by definition, too conflicted to objectively respond to the draft tool. The responses of the commercial sectors are predictable, as they mimic their positions during the prior negotiation for the development of the Framework for Engagement of Non-State Actors (FENSA). Their overall approach, and specific responses, are typical of the now standard methods of the ultra-processed food and beverage industry’s ‘corporate playbook.’ In addition, Ralston et al’s analysis raises a number of other issues, such as: why these corporations are so keen to be included in the world of multi-stakeholder partnerships, why so few member states responded to the draft tool, and problems with the term ‘private sector.’ The commentary ends with a suggestion for WHO to seek broader involvement from the 160+ member states who have yet to participate in the consultations regarding the draft tool.


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Volume 11, Issue 2
February 2022
Pages 239-242
  • Receive Date: 13 July 2020
  • Revise Date: 17 August 2020
  • Accept Date: 18 August 2020
  • First Publish Date: 01 February 2022