Food industry corporate political activity and its potential influence on public health policy, research and practice in Ireland

In Ireland, non-communicable diseases (NCD), which include diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases and cancers, contribute to premature death and increased suffering and disability. Unhealthy diets, particularly those high in ultra-processed food products, and obesity, are one of the primary risks factors for NCD. Internationally recommended policies, such as restrictions on the marketing of unhealthy food products to children, could prevent and control NCD, but have yet to be developed and implemented in Ireland.

There is evidence that the main obstacle in relation to this is the influence of the food industry, whose profits are generated from the consumption of ultra-processed products. The extent of this influence in Ireland is unknown. In parallel, there is little information, globally, about solutions to mitigate that influence. We propose to identify the influence of the food industry on public health policy, research and practice in Ireland, through one historical study, which will use internal documents from the industry, and one study of its recent practices. In addition, we will conduct interviews with key informants in Ireland. We will also identify potential solutions and provide recommendations to mitigate that influence, through a document analysis, an online questionnaire coupled with a consultation with public health experts in academia, government and civil society, and a citizen jury.

This work would build on the progress that has been made in Ireland in recent years since the introduction of public health policies, particularly tobacco and alcohol control. With the results from this project, policy makers, academics and public health professionals in Ireland will be equipped to identify and counter the arguments and actions of the food industry during the development of public health policies or programmes.

The second half of this project will arm them with more effective, informed solutions to counter undue influence on public health policy, research and practice.

Award Date
26 June 2020
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Dr Melissa Mialon
Host Institution
Trinity College Dublin
ARPP 2020