The use of law
Several contributions to World Nutrition and to our website this month concern the use of law to protect public health and to improve population nutrition. The WN cover this month features multi-billionaire Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City from 2002 until next year, who believes in using his statutory powers to make the city a safer and healthier place. The accompanying editorial is headed 'our hero', in the belief that most public health nutritionists believe that statutory regulation and restriction is now neglected and is needed. Comments please – see below for the response facility.
New York City. Mayor Bloomberg here explains why the City is banning sale
of supersized portions of sugared soft drinks. Note the pyramids of cubes
This May, Mayor Bloomberg announced restrictions on the sale of super-sized sugared soft drinks in locations governed by the city's health department. As told by Vivica Kraak in her WN commentary this month, 'Within days of his announcement, a food- and tobacco industry-financed front organisation paid for a full-page advertisement in The New York Times branding Bloomberg 'The Nanny' [see below].
Some hostile or satirical reactions to food law: Bloomberg the nanny (left),
Bloomberg the tyrant (centre), and (right) Bloomberg the party-pooper
'It accused him of overstepping his authority and proposing a policy measure that infringed the right of individuals to choose whatever they want to purchase and consume. Attacks and satirical comments came from other quarters [see above] together with many supportive responses'. Vivica Kraak continues: 'My thought was, as the elected highest official policy-maker responsible for protecting the health of his citizens, isn't Mayor Bloomberg simply doing his job?'
Booze: there should be a law
Most relevant independent professionals know that the protection of public health and public goods involves the use of law in the public interest. So why is the labelling of alcoholic drinks so vague? This is a question now being asked by UK experts on the ill-effects of alcohol. As stated this month, they say that bottles of beer, wine and spirits should by law, carry cigarette-style graphic health warnings to make clear that regular consumption of alcoholic drinks is a cause of some cancers, and also infertility and violence. The UK Faculty of Public Health proposes labels like this one below (right) to help check scenes like this below (left):
In the UK binge drinking – drinking to get drunk – is soaring among young people. Will explicit warning labels check this? The alcohol trade says no.
'These health warnings would help educate the public and give them key information before they decide to buy a can or bottle of alcohol' says said Mark Bellis, director of the centre for public health research at Liverpool John Moores University. 'People don't realise that drink…increases your risk of… injury, a stroke, heart disease, liver disease and many forms of cancer, and don't realise its potential long-term implications for them. This is not the nanny state. This is simply to help the public understand the risks'. Legislation would also be required to specify the size of the warnings on the label of all cans and bottles. Mark Bellis adds: 'The health messages that are most important for people to see are the ones that drinks manufacturers are least likely to want to put on their products'.
In the UK, smoking and use and exposure to tobacco is estimated to kill over 100,000 people a year. Recent annual figures for heroin are 700, and for cocaine just over 200. The annual estimate for alcohol anything between 10,000 and 40,000, largely depending on whether deaths in which alcohol is one factor, including alcohol-related homicide, suicide, car crashes and other fatal mayhem is included. There is another difference between alcohol and illegal drugs. Recent annual figures in the UK show that the alcohol industry supports almost 2 million jobs, that there are 200,000 outlets licensed to sell alcohol, that over £40 billion a year is spent in the UK on alcoholic drinks, and that the trade, including tax raised from alcoholic drinks, is worth £30 billion a year to the UK economy. Explicit warning labels on bottles? In the UK or anywhere else in the world where alcoholic drinks are legal? Not yet very likely, we suggest.
Our new members
Six members who come from or work in every continent: Heather Yeatman,
Sonia Blaney, Gary Sacks, Sandra Crispim, Rosely Schieri, Sharon Friel
We heard somebody say recently that public health nutrition is dominated by men. Oh, really? Not judging from the members the Association is attracting. Isabela Sattamini, who is responsible for our members' profiles published every month, reports that most of our new members are women. See for example this month's line-up of members profiled, above. Gary Sacks of Deakin University in Australia is surrounded by women: from the left, Heather Yeatman, also from Australia; Sonia Blaney from Canada, now working in Indonesia; Sandra Crispim from Brazil, now working for the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France; Rosely Schieri from Brazil; and Sharon Friel originally from Scotland, now working in Australia.
Big Mac, Coke and electronic circuses
Olympics. The big two food and drink product sponsors: McDonald's and
Coca-Cola, with sponsorship deals fixed up to and including the 2020 games
Finally for this month: the overall marketing and advertising of McDonald's and Coca-Cola in and around the London Olympics, including direct sponsorships each costing a guesstimated $US 100 million, may amount to around $US 500 million. Activists concerned about this and wanting to do something, need to know that the leading sponsors have signed deals with the International Olympic Committee up to and including the 2016 Games (Rio) and also the 2020 Games (Baku, Madrid, Tokyo, Doha, or Istanbul). The transnationals don't mess around.