November 30, 2022

GHAI report exposes corporations’ deceptive marketing of unhealthy foods, beverages

A new report released by the Global Health Advocacy Incubator [GHAI] has detailed how food and beverage corporations are exerting influence to gain privileged spaces at policy making tables and using deceptive marketing tactics to promote their unhealthy ultra-processed foods to vulnerable populations around the world.

The Global Public Health Threat for Food Policy revealed how harmful marketing practices are shaping food environments and affecting populations with detrimental short and long-term health effects, burdening States with high economic and social costs.

This is especially evident when corporations market directly to children and adolescents who lack the developmental maturity to distinguish advertisements from entertaining or educational content.

“Our society is so inundated with unhealthy food marketing that we no longer recognize how manipulative and insidious it has become.

“The harmful and sophisticated marketing practices are promoting an unhealthier world, destroying cultural diets, creating life-long eating preferences and damaging the health of vulnerable populations around the world,” said Verónica Schoj, MD, Vice President, Food and Nutrition Policy, GHAI.

“This report shows why there is such a critical need for governments to promote, preserve and prepare good nutrition for everyone by advocating for strong marketing regulations free from industry influence and to protect children and adolescents from commercial exploitation.” 

The report contains a qualitative analysis of more than 300 examples obtained through public sources from more than 52 countries, highlighting the industry trends observed.

It outlines the potential damage done when corporations use marketing to deceive and influence globally:

1.       Misleading marketing generates a harmful domino effect by creating unhealthy food environments, burdening countries with sicker populations, and other negative results.

2.       It extends beyond advertising, promotion and sponsorship to include corporate washing that allows the industry to establish itself at the policymaking table while influencing vulnerable populations.

3.       It’s aggressive, insidious and everywhere: it enables the industry to influence what consumers eat, displacing traditional foods from different cultures.

4.       It puts children and adolescents at risk of becoming victims of commercial exploitation due to the corporate saturation of unhealthy products in the market.

Marketing Exposed: A Global Public Health Threat for Food Policy is the third industry report produced by GHAI.

The 2020 report, Facing Two Pandemics: How Big Food Undermined Public Health in the Era of Covid-19, received global recognition for increasing awareness on Big Food companies seizing the coronavirus pandemic to promote their ultra-processed foods.

In 2021, Behind The Labels: Big Food’s War on Healthy Food Policies demonstrated how the food and beverage industry has aggressively fought to weaken and undermine front-of-package labeling policies (FOPL) globally.

The 2022 report exposes concrete worldwide examples of how food and beverage corporations are leveraging marketing strategies at the expense of public health. The report aims to urgently eradicate the dangerous consequences from misleading food marketing.

“While we wait for comprehensive and sensible marketing regulations, health and cardiovascular diseases and related economic and social costs will continue to skyrocket.

“The time is now for real accountability that should not involve corporate interference during policy making,” said Dr. Schoj