Is it up to Food Manufacturers to Tackle Obesity?

A recent survey has highlighted that politicians, stakeholders and policymakers have a lack of faith in food manufacturers to tackle the growing obesity epidemic. 62% of respondents said they didn’t feel that food manufacturers took the responsibility seriously and instead relied on supermarkets to take the lead – but who decided it should be the responsibility of food manufacturers anyway?
Obesity is a growing problem in the UK, with the overweight population costing the NHS £47 billion a year in healthcare and social costs – more than the UK’s combined “protection” budget for the police and fire services, law courts, and prisons. However it isn’t just a problem in the UK; it has been identified as the “global obesity crisis” as 30% of the world’s population are classed as overweight or obese.


In the food industry, tackling the obesity problem is viewed as the most pressing issue – over sustainability, employment and worries about pricing. Supermarkets have been identified as the main vehicle for change, with suppliers and manufacturers viewed as “failing to take the lead.” But why should they take the lead in the first place? Suppliers can’t take responsibility for how much of their produce people buy. Rather than pointing the finger at the manufacturer, the government needs to take responsibility for the uneducated consumers who can’t seem to understand the concept of a balanced diet.
The UK spends around £368m annually on obesity prevention programmes – but this is just 1% of the overall social cost of obesity. If more investment was put into education and prevention, consumers could make healthier choices and as a result less of the population would become overweight.


Consumers need to take responsibility for what they put into their bodies, rather than blaming anything they can – branding and advertising, 2for1 offers, product placement etc. It should be seen in the same way as smoking, which is the number one human-generated health burden. Yet there is probably much more awareness of the danger of smoking and much more money spent on discouraging people to smoke. If obesity education spending was matched, consumers could make an informed decision about whether or not to eat junk food and the implications later in life.
What is your opinion on the obesity crisis? Are you a food manufacturer or supplier with an idea? Let us know on LinkedIn.