A Janus-faced food industry? : ethical reflections on corporate responsibility for health

Dissertation, Wageningen University and Research (2019)


Food-related non-communicable diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases are key threats to public health. Yet, the responsibility for food-related health harms is contested. While traditionally viewed as mainly an individual responsibility or a governmental responsibility, fingers are nowadays also pointed at the food and beverage industry, as many firms are producing and marketing unhealthy products that contribute to the rise of obesity and other food-related NCDs. Yet, does the behaviour of the industry and the impact its products have on public health also give reason for moral concern? Are these firms doing anything wrong? Are there normative considerations on the basis of which it can be argued that food and beverage firms have a responsibility for public health? This thesis explores the moral grounds for firms in the food and beverage industry to address food-related public health problems, and simultaneously reflects upon what taking responsibility for these problems could entail in practice. Drawing on debates in business ethics, political philosophy, and public health ethics, it is argued that food and beverage firms have distinct responsibilities for food-related health problems, and that these responsibilities spring from considerations of _non-maleficence_, _respect for autonomy _and _justice_. The thesis makes clear how responsibility for public health can be understood as an essentially shared responsibility, and outlines what taking responsibility could entail for various firms in the food and beverage industry and makes recommendations on what kind of behaviour firms should no longer engage in.

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References found in this work

Principles of Biomedical Ethics.Tom L. Beauchamp - 1979 - Oxford University Press.
Famine, Affluence, and Morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (3):229-243.
Responsibility for Justice.Iris Marion Young - 2011 - Oxford University Press USA.

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