Big Food with a regional flavour: how Australia’s food lobby works08 October 2014
Criticism of the food industry has itself become a niche industry. But the tendency to embrace a US-centric conception of how the industry works risks masking local variants and inhibiting a targeted response in other countries. Since the 2001 book Fast Food Nation, a spate of books, films and documentaries on the American food industry have helped to shape the popular idea of “Big Food”. The food industry is depicted as a highly organised set of multinational food and beverage lobbyists peddling the global diet of sugary drinks and highly processed, energy-dense salty foods – akin to tobacco industry lobbyist Nick Naylor in the 2005 film Thank You For Smoking. But although it is highly globalised, the food industry is far from homogeneous. Big Food in Australia is not the same as the industry in the United States, where much of the popular media has come from. Still, that doesn’t mean Australian food and beverage lobbying is benign. Responding to the threat posed by the food industry to public health locally requires a clear understanding of food industry tactics in the context of Australia’s political and lobbying culture.