'A group posing as a health organization but funded by Coca Cola and other fast food and drinks companies sought to undermine the Chinese government’s anti-obesity efforts, a new paper claims.
As China’s middle class swells and its citizens get a taste of the good life, their waistlines have also expanded. 42 percent of the Chinese population are overweight and 11 percent obese. Meanwhile, western fast food chains have set up franchises at a breakneck pace. McDonalds plans to have 4,500 restaurants in China by 2022, adding around 1,000 outlets per year. KFC – China’s most popular fast food restaurant – already has 5,000 outlets and plans to keep expanding.
The Chinese government has noticed the bulge, and announced a public health blueprint, ‘Healthy China 2030’, two years ago. Among the blueprint’s recommendations are a nationwide information campaign to educate the population on the importance of a balanced, healthy diet.
Behind the scenes, western fast food giants were already hard at work deflecting blame from themselves. The International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), set up in 1978 by a former Coke executive, organized obesity conferences around China, where speakers overemphasized the importance of physical activity in fighting fatness, and downplayed the role of diet, according to a paper published this week by the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
While Coke provides most of the ILSI’s funding, its other contributors are a rogues' gallery of junk food hawkers and sugar merchants. McDonalds, Nestlé and Pepsi all fund the ILSI, and the organization’s Chinese branch enjoys close ties to the Chinese government, the paper claims.
Indeed, several of the government’s anti-obesity initiatives appear to have been directly influenced by the ILSI. ‘Happy 10 Minutes’ – a government exercise program that sought to ward off obesity by giving Chinese schoolchildren an extra ten minute break every day – was developed and partly funded by the ILSI.'
Read more: Hyperglycemic warfare: Coca Cola-funded group undermined China’s anti-obesity efforts
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