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Food & Hunger

These Companies Are the Best and the Worst in the World at Tackling Malnutrition

The Global Access to Nutrition Index 2018 might not sound that exciting, but it’s here to name and shame the companies not doing enough to tackle malnutrition. 

It’s an annual report released by the Access to Nutrition Foundation, and it ranks the world’s largest food and drink companies on how well they address the twin challenges of obesity and undernutrition. 

The companies on the list include Nestle, Mars, Campbell’s, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Unilever, Kellogg, Kraft Heinz, and Lactalis.

Take action: Urge World Leaders to End Hunger and Malnutrition

And between them, the 22 companies generate an estimated $500 billion in annual sales over 200 countries. Their products play a significant and increasing role in the diets of millions of people, according to the foundation, so they need to step up and take action to drive change. 

Currently, 1 in every 3 people are suffering from a form of malnutrition — whether that’s being undernourished or overweight.

The indexes are designed to find out whether manufacturers are being responsible in the way they make, sell, and market their products to address this global nutrition crisis.

“There is good news and bad,” said Inge Kauer, executive director of the foundation. “On the one hand, we see evidence that a number of companies are upping their commitments to tackle various aspects of the nutrition challenge, including persistent high levels of undernutrition in may emerging markets.” 

Read more: 400,000 Children Are Close to Dying of Hunger in the Congo, UNICEF Warns

“However, the results also show companies need to get better at ‘walking the talk’ and in particular need to set clear and verifiable targets for improving the healthiness of their product ranges,” she added. 

This year, nine companies scored 5 or more out of 10, compared to just two companies in 2016; and the average score increased from 2.5 to 3.3 out of 10. 

Here are the final rankings: 
  1. Nestle - 6.8
  2. Unilever - 6.7
  3. Danone - 6.3
  4. FrieslandCampina - 6.0
  5. Mondelez - 5.9
  6. Mars - 5.6
  7. PepsiCo - 5.2
  8. Kellogg - 5.0
  9. Grupo Bimbo - 5.0
  10. Campbell’s - 4.0
  11. Arla - 3.3
  12. Ferrero - 3.2
  13. Coca-Cola - 3.0
  14. Ajinomoto - 2.4
  15. General Mills - 2.3
  16. ConAgra - 1.4
  17. Meiji - 0.8
  18. BRF - 0.5
  19. Suntory - 0.1
  20. Tingyi - 0.0
  21. Kraft Heinz - 0.0
  22. Lactalis - 0.0

Some of the changes that companies have made so far that have proven to be effective include new and updated nutrition strategies and policies; improvements in how affordable and accessible their products are; better nutrition labelling; and more disclosure of information, according to the foundation. 

Read more: Junk Food Ads to Be Banned on London's Public Transport

This year, the index has also added a “product profile," which measures how healthy companies’ product ranges are in nine international markets. 

And it had “alarming” results, according to Paulus Verschuren, acting chair of the foundation.

Of the 23,013 products analysed by the foundation, less than a third could be called healthy — revealing a significant difference between what the foundation would consider healthy, and what the companies selling the products would. 

“The difference between our analysis and companies’ own assessments shows the need for more transparency on how companies measure healthiness and set targets to improve it,” said Verschuren.

Read more: Swedish DJ Avicii Donated Millions to Hunger Charities Before He Died

“Companies could and should do more to develop and market healthier products,” he added. “We urge them to take action.”

Another separate ranking included in the index addresses the world’s leading manufacturers of breast-milk substitutes (BMS). 

The report showed that there is “still widespread lack of compliance” with the code on how baby milk formula should be marketed in order to protect infant health. 

These are ranking of the world’s leading six manufacturers of BMS: 
  1. Danone - 46% (up from 31% in 2016)
  2. Nestle - 45% (up from 36% in 2016)
  3. Abbott - 34% (up from 7% in 2016)
  4. FrieslandCampina - 25% (up from 24% in 2016)
  5. RB/MJN - 10% (up from 5% in 2016)
  6. Kraft Heinz - 0% (down from 17% in 2016)

The report noted: “Though several improvements were put in place, even the highest score of 46% is still far from complete compliance with recommendations of the code.” 

Read more: These 4 Baby Formula Brands Are Putting Profits Before Science, Warns Report

Breastfeeding saves lives, according to nutrition campaigners, especially in developing countries, and it plays a vital role in the lives of infants. 

“All companies need to expand the scope of their marketing policies to encompass all formulas made for children up to three years of age, and the apply their policies in developing countries as well as developed ones,” the foundation said in a press release. 

Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN's Global Goals, which include action on achieving nutrition and good health. You can join us by taking action on these issues here