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The talk the food industry couldn’t bear to hear


A little over a month ago I was invited by the Ontario Medical Association to give a talk at a food industry breakfast. I was asked to speak about what I thought the food industry could do to help further public health.

3 days prior to the talk, after my flights and hotel were booked, after I cancelled a day of patients, I was dis-invited. Apparently the conference organizer, Ron Reaman, a Senior VP of the international PR and communications firm Fleishman-Hillard, decided that it would be better if I didn’t come. Why he decided that I can’t tell you because despite being a Senior VP at an actual communications firm, he didn’t do me the courtesy of communicating to me his concerns or offering me an apology – instead he had the Ontario Medical Association simply tell me that I was no longer welcome.

The good news is the internet’s a much bigger venue than that small breakfast symposium and given I’d already put together my slide set, I figured why not post it online. Online I don’t have a time keeper and given I’m not speaking solely to the food industry, I don’t need to be as gentle with my messaging as I’d planned. Also good news is who I’ll now be able to reach. My blog is read by policy makers, public health authorities, chief medical officers, professors, physicians/dietitians and other allied health professionals, journalists and nutrition bloggers the world over – folks that wouldn’t have been attending that small, intimate, food industry sponsored breakfast. You’d almost think Mr. Reaman and Fleishman-Hillard were working for me and not for the food industry as uninviting me will enable me to communicate my message far further than I ever would have done otherwise.

So here’s my talk. It’s about what the food industry could do to improve public health, why they’re not going to, and what we can do about it. But before you click it, a quick request – I want you to share it by means of every socially networked channel (any Redditors here?) and email contact you have, because if Fleishman-Hillard the communications firm hired by the food industry to help cultivate good Big Food PR didn’t want it heard, I figure it probably ought to get spread.

(Fair warning too – at one point I get a bit heated and use the word “ass”, and believe it or not, I wasn’t using it to refer to the food industry, or even to Ron Reaman.)

Yoni Freedhoff is a family doctor and the founder of Ottawa’s Bariatric Medical Institute – a multi-disciplinary, ethical, evidence-based nutrition and weight management centre. He blogs at Weighty Matters.  Connect with Yoni on Facebook.  Follow Yoni on Twitter @YoniFreedhoff.

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4 comments

  1. C.Aulakh

    I could not agree more on this presentation. The psychology of food marketing, particularly packaging and using current buzzwords like wholegrain, no sugar added, etc. is very misleading and should be illegal. Fundamentally, we need to educate children in the home and this also means re-educating their parents on what constitutes REAL food. Unfortunately, like the oil companies and big pharma, big food conglomerates have the money and means to continue on this path and often with the support of the government.

    Ultimately, the consumer bares some responsibility and needs to be less lazy and supportive of these big brands – but that is an entire other conversation.

  2. Doug Hart

    Thank-you Doctor Freedhoff. This message was bang on and you should be commended for making your assertions as diplomatically as you did.

  3. Mike Spear

    Agree with the video and even re-blogged it at genomicsnews,ca
    But really, if you want to pass it around “because if Fleishman-Hillard the communications firm hired by the food industry to help cultivate good Big Food PR didn’t want it heard, I figure it probably ought to get spread”, that’s just the wrong approach.

  4. Kieran Quinn

    Thank you Dr. Freedhoff for bringing this concerning trend to the forefront.

    I see the real problem as a matter of cost. While parents may be mislead with misinformation, I believe many try their best to buy fresh, unprocessed food for their children. But eating healthy simply costs more. If you accept this statement as true, I am interested to know what solutions you could propose to curb the cost of healthy eating (beyond raising the prices of unhealthy eating)?

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