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December 12, 2003
Opinion Divided on Whether Governments Should Sue Food Companies for Causing Obesity
  GlobeScan’s latest survey of 10,000 citizens in 10 countries reveals a divide in opinion between Europe, Mexico and Brazil versus Australia and the United States on whether governments should sue food companies that play a role in causing obesity.

Concern about the increasing incidence of obesity and diet-related diseases is evident in all of the countries surveyed. In view of the recent rise in litigation toward fast food restaurants and manufacturers of unhealthy products, and of the debate around the contribution these companies make toward rising health care costs, people were asked whether governments should take legal action against food companies. Opinions differ significantly by country. Mexicans, Brazilians, and Chinese strongly agree that governments should sue food companies; Europeans are quite receptive to the idea as well. Canadians are clearly divided on the issue, while majorities in Australia and the United States are opposed to government bringing legal action against food companies.

Results from GlobeScan’s latest Food Issues Monitor show that people generally are divided as to the relative responsibilities of companies, governments, and individuals in addressing the problem of obesity and diet-related disease. Overall, we see that in countries such as the United States and Australia, there is a general trend toward freedom of choice, with the onus being on the individual to correct his or her diet and thereby reduce health problems. In other countries, such as Brazil, Mexico, and China, the trend is toward market regulation, with food companies and government being expected to deal with rising health costs and poor diets. Europeans also tend to want involvement from both the public and private sectors.

The 2003 Food Issues Monitor survey was conducted in 10 countries, between May and October 2003, using face-to-face or telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 respondents in each country. At the country level, results are considered accurate to within 3.1 percent, 19 times in 20. The full report is available to subscribers in December 2003.

GlobeScan, formerly Environics International, conducts custom research and annual tracking studies on global issues. For more information about our syndicated and custom research services, please contact:

Ms. Femke de Man
Director, Food Issues Monitor