Questioning the results of Public Private Partnerships

(translation of Dutch blogpost)

Yesterday featured an opinion with the title “Obestitas Public Private Partnership is indeed a success” from food scientist Marije van Koperen. Because the comments section of a blog is the best place to hide an opinion (Dutch piece said “secret”, mistake) we move the discussion to Twitter.

Marije uses many many words to tell us a group of social media intrigants question the Obesitas PPP (JoGG) results, worth yet, that Obesitas is a money machine for talking suits. With kick offs, catchy movies, international congresses (Epode) and very expensive offices they keep public money out of the hands of civil groups that want to provide healthy food to children at school. 

Two A4’s and dozens of footnotes are used by this Nestlé employee (and VU University, partner in Epode and JoGG) to say that:

– the matter is complex

– because JoGG works “integrally” this has to work

– they self evaluated and found that they were on the right track.

So much on the right track that it is OK even though the JoGG-method was proven ineffective (Obesitas got worse in neighbourhoods where JoGG was active in Utrecht and Amsterdam) it was OK to send more money into research looking for effects until 2030. JoGG and Epode profile themselves as the “Together Partners” but in reality are’nt they preventing a true “integral method”?

What the hornets on social Media are arguing is that JoGG is a Coca-Cola/Nestlé vehicle to push PPP (public private participation) JoGG-copies worldwide through their Epode network. Because governments are out of ideas (and also out of civil servants to implement) ideas they love to join PPP-tables and large amounts of public money is transferred to what in effect are lingering clubs that have a hidden agenda of delaying effective policies against sugar products. Example of how much industry is mingled with the policy table: the Industry big food/big drink lobby FNLI director Philip den Ouden is also boardmember of JoGG . 

In yesteryear (before BigFood) companies paid taxes and governments hired experts to make effective policies for problems. If you think of how the Tabacco problem was eventually contained by ever increasing taxes, banner policies and campaigns you get an idea of what we mean. But now that new-liberal governments want small public sectors and industry on the helm it is in effect BigFood that is making policies. And so we have JoGG/Epode that prove themselves to be very successful because they self evaluate, or have “independent” (Nestlé co-funded) research showing effectiveness. If results are negative (two recent examples show obesity rates going up in neighborhoods of Utrecht and Amsterdam when JoGG gets involved) the self evaluation reports call for more money for longitudinal research projects. (You need to do our programs for 20 years in order to get measurable results).

Enough is enough.
JoGG and Epode should seize to exist. They’re occupying costly offices in CSO-green washing Firms that also house dozens of “healthy food label programs” and other food policy lingering clubs. And results are not there, nothing, nada, zip.

So is there a way out of obesity? Yes, but it’ll be a shock to many: 

– BigFood Will be removed from all policy negotiation tables

– the funds for JoGG/Epode will be used to hire expert civil servants to research the problem

– results will quickly show that civilians paying at Petrol stations need to do a “healthy choice” Mars obstacle course to get to the counter (remember paying through the window of your car?)

– kids coming out of the classroom walk into CocaCola sponsored vending machines, certified bij Epode to contain 15%  healthier (lower calorie) Candy bars and soda’s (the empty lower left hand option). Who ever allowed this lunacy? 

– “Sugar” in products has been replaced by ultra cheap High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) that, oops, works differently in your body than beet sugar: it is translated into abdominal fat in stead as reserve energy in the liver.

– The research also shows that Nestlé cs have hired “food technologists” that have figured out in billion dollar researcher programs that the right amounts of HFCS, fat and salt can make foods that when consumed actually make you feel hungry, so that you can eat a family bag of crisps without getting sick.

The civil servants look at this mess and unpack some tools from an era long gone: TAX. 5€ for a kilo of HFCS, 1€ for a Candybar.

Heavy measures , but highly necessary for a problem that can only be compared to the problems we once faces with Tabacco and alcohol.

With industry not welcome at the policy table anymore (and a public record of all lobbyist visits to MP’s, including written record of what was discussed) we can finally work on the problems at hand with fresh ideas and fresh budget.
So yes, a small group keeps biting in the pants of the Industry Food Lobbyclubs so that MP’s will ask them “why are there cuts in your jeans”

The Ministry of ContraDiction


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