Document Type : Commentary
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
According to Lacy-Nichols and Williams, the food industry is increasingly forestalling regulation with incremental concessions and co-option of policy-making discourses and processes; bolstering their legitimacy via partnerships with credible stakeholders; and disarming critics by amending their product portfolios whilst maintaining high sales volumes and profits. Their assessment raises a number of fundamental philosophical questions that we must address in order to form an appropriate public health response: is it appropriate to treat every act of corporate citizenship with cynicism? If voluntary action leads to better health outcomes, does it matter whether profits are preserved? How should we balance any short-term benefits from industry-led reforms against the longer-term risk stemming from corporate capture of policy-making networks? I argue for a nuanced approach, focused on carefully defined health outcomes; allowing corporations the benefit of the doubt, but implementing robust binding measures the moment voluntary actions fail to meet independently set objectives.