The Brazilian government has introduced legislation to protect and improve its traditional food system, standing in contrast to the governments of many industrialized countries that have partly surrendered their prime duty to protect public health to transnational food companies, argue nutrition and public health experts writing in this week’s PLoS Medicine.
Carlos Monteiro and Geoffrey Cannon, from the Center for Epidemiological Studies in Health and Nutrition of the University of Sao Paulo, explain that, in Brazil, traditional long-established food systems and dietary patterns are being displaced by ultra-processed products made by transnational food corporations (“Big Food” and “Big Snack”) contributing to increases in the incidence of obesity and of major chronic diseases, and adversely affecting public health and public goods by undermining culture, meals, the family, community life, local economies, and national identity.The authors argue: “The use of law to protect and improve food systems and supplies, and thus public health, may be difficult in parts of the world where governments have already ceded the responsibility of governance to transnational and other corporations. However, in Brazil protection of public health still remains a prime duty of government.”
The authors explain that by law, all Brazilian children attending state schools are entitled to one daily meal at school, at least 70% of the food supplied to schools must be fresh or minimally processed, and a minimum of 30% of this food must be sourced from local family farmers. They say that such measures help to check the penetration of transnational corporations into Brazil.