Doctors are inadvertently funding junk food companies through their regulator’s membership, an investigation has found.
The General Medical Council has investments totaling almost £870,000 in the food or soft drink companies Nestlé, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Pepsico, Coca-Cola and Unilever, which owns the Magnum, Wall’s and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream brands.
The regulator, which charges UK doctors £161 as a one-time registration fee and then £420 in ongoing annual fees, has also invested more than £1.2m in pharmaceutical companies since 2019.
Last night, the doctors’ leaders said they would be “appalled” to learn how their funds were being used, likening it to pouring money into tobacco companies.
GP Sam Everington, Chairman of the Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “They would be horrified to know that their money is being invested in fast food companies which are the cause of so many diseases and reduce the quality and quantity of life. and significantly more pressure on the NHS and the workload of doctors.’ He added: “This is no different than investing in tobacco companies.” Nearly two-thirds of people in the UK are overweight or obese, increasing the risk of numerous health problems, from type 2 diabetes to various types of cancer.
Doctors are unknowingly funding junk food companies with fees paid to their regulator. (File Image)
The rise of fast food outlets is seen as a driver of obesity, especially among youth, with a third of children now overweight or obese by the time they start high school.
A freedom of information request from the British Medical Journal revealed that the regulator had funds linked to fast food and soft drink companies.
It also found that more than £1.2m had been invested in pharmaceutical companies including Novo Nordisk, AstraZeneca, Merck and Roche, while around £470,000 had gone to private insurance or healthcare providers such as Humana Health and UnitedHealth Group. .
More than £1.3 million has also been invested in various medical device manufacturers, including Edwards LifeSciences, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Intuitive Medical, the makers of the da Vinci robotic surgical system.
The General Medical Council has investments of nearly £870,000 in food or soft drink companies Nestlé, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Pepsico, Coca-Cola and Unilever, the British Medical Journal has found. (File Image)
The regulator invests its money through the investment management of churches, charities and local authorities (CCLAs). He told The BMJ that he has a say in what CCLA invests and access to all decisions through CCLA reporting.
GMC awarded CCLA £50m to invest in 2019, which as of January 2023 is worth £81.3m made up of investments in companies, funds, private equity firms, property, cash and securities of the money market.
Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “Many doctors whose work involves dealing with the damage caused by the marketing of junk food, if only they knew how their money is spent.” ‘A GMC spokesman said it has a duty to ensure that it protects and maintains the value of its financial assets.
‘We apply a number of ethical restrictions to the types of companies in which CCLA invests on our behalf.
“This includes products and services such as tobacco, alcohol, pornography, gambling, and high interest rate loans.”