World Nutrition

Volume 3, Number 9, September 2012

Journal of the World Public Health Nutrition Association
Published monthly at

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Correspondence. Food industry. Processing

In whose interests?

Access pdf of this letter here
Access pdf of previous correspondence here
Access pdf of November 201O (The Big Issue thesis) here

Sir: Debate on the related topics of the food industry and food processing is crucial. If those who are concerned with food science or food engineering, like Urban Jonsson, or indeed those who work for industry, feel attacked by the 'Big Issue' thesis being advanced in WN and elsewhere, it is good that they respond vigorously.

My own position is much the same as that of Carlos Monteiro and Geoffrey Cannon. I cannot agree with Urban Jonsson when he positions the food industry only as a 'productive force', rather than what it actually is – part of the whole power structure of prevailing politics and economics. In my view, transnational corporations exploit productive capacity including in lower-income countries where human and material resources are cheap, in order to get the maximum amount of profit and power. I can't agree with the idea that transnational corporations are always 100 per cent beneficial because they create jobs and improve quality of life. Do they, overall? And do they have the right to make colossal profits for their shareholders, by making and selling products proved to be harmful for health, while blaming resulting disease and disability on inappropriate individual choices? I think not.

This debate is very positive. The classification of foods based on the nature, extent and purpose of their processing, is relatively new. It should encourage discussion about the food production system and its place in society as a whole. In this debate, criticism such as that advanced by Urban Jonsson is essential. It will spur us to think harder about what is indeed this very big issue.

Ana Paula Bortoletto Martins
Centre for Epidemiological Studies in Health and Nutrition
School of Public Health, University of São Paulo, Brazil

Acknowledgement. I am a member of the research group at the University of São Paulo part of whose work is concerned with The Food System project

Please cite as: Martins A. Food industry. Processing. In whose interests? [Letter] World Nutrition, September 2012,3, 9: 435-436. Obtainable at

2012 September WN5.Correspondence. Food industry, processing

In whose interests?
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