“A LITTLE exaggeration forces the message home,” according to National Obesity Forum spokesman Tam Fry, forced on BBC Radio 4’s number-crunching More or Less show to admit that the NOF’s much-publicised “findings” about the nation’s expanding waistlines were more anecdotal than statistical.
So far so (belatedly) candid; but when asked about the NOF’s funders, formerly acknowledged to include diet industry players (among them LighterLife, Slim Fast and Rosemary Conley Enterprises), Fry insisted this was no longer the case.
Food industry communications
Whoops! Fry’s appearance came as the NOF-organised National Obesity Awareness Week drew to a close last month, featuring a parliamentary shindig with public health minister Jane Ellison, addresses from MPs Rosie Cooper and Rob Flello (past and current chairs of the all-party parliamentary group on obesity), and a reception at Downing Street hosted by Samantha Cameron for children who won a competition run by NOF.
The awareness week was heavily supported and sponsored by… the Cambridge Weight Plan and food industry communications agency Whitehouse, whose clients include health food store Holland and Barrett and “Consumers for Health Choice”, a campaign group fighting restrictions on food supplements. Whitehouse also helpfully provides “secretarial, PR and strategic support” for the all-party obesity group.
Heart of government
MP Paul Flynn did his best to flag up concerns, tabling an early-day motion noting that the involvement of such lobbyists could create confusion “between a worthy health campaign and mercenary interests that could gravely embarrass Hon Members”.
However, Flello staunchly defended his group’s backers, amending almost the entire motion to read that the House “welcomes the launch of National Obesity Awareness Week to promote awareness of the scale of the problem of obesity and to galvanise action in response; acknowledges the very wide range of support this exciting project has revealed from many worthwhile organisations including the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Adult and Childhood Obesity to which the Whitehouse Consultancy provides support on an unpaid basis [and] regrets the inaccurate and unsubstantiated claims made in the original wording of this Motion”.
Does he really think lobbying firms for the multi-million-pound diet industry are any less keen on access to the heart of government than the junk food companies whose access was decried last week?