Industries that produce harmful commodities such as high fat, salt or sugar foods and beverages, tobacco and alcohol have been identified as major vectors of behavioural risk factors for non-communicable diseases. Such corporations regularly engage in public discourse through lobbying, marketing, social responsibility strategies and other activities. They also generate revenue, employment opportunities, scientific and technical expertise which provide them with a powerful voice in influencing public perceptions and health policy. It adds to the complexity of this topic that commercial companies that supply unhealthy products may engage in activities that are potentially health promoting (e.g. funding community initiatives, sports events, etc.). This may present challenges for decision-makers in deciding how to sufficiently balance commercial and public interests. The controversy around interactions between industry and public bodies has been widely recognised and debated. However, the nature and extent of interactions between harmful commodity industries and local authorities have received little attention.
The aim of the proposed work is to better understand the nature and extent of such interactions in local government, explore stakeholder views on this issue and the need for guidance, and if justified, develop a set of principles to guide local commercial strategies. While we will explore all harmful commodity industries, the proposed work has a particular focus on the food industry due to the numerous known interactions with local authority, importance to national/local public health priorities and lack of guiding frameworks.
This work package is a joint proposal of the Food Sub-programme of the Places & communities Programme (P&C) and the Changing behaviour at population level (CBPL) theme.
The work plan is divided into four work packages (WP):
WP1 will provide a framework for the classification of corporate activities of harmful commodity industries through a rapid review of literature.
WP2 will obtain data from all local authorities in England and provide a comprehensive overview of local authority interactions with harmful commodity industries (patterns, nature, extent) using the typology developed in WP1.
WP3 will ascertain the views of a wide range of stakeholders on local interactions with commercial companies, their influence on business plans and community activities and will explore stakeholder views on the need for guidance.
WP4 will develop a set of principles for local authorities to underpin the governance of local strategies for interacting with harmful commodity industries with a particular focus on the food industry.