An investigation found that doctors unwittingly fund fast food companies through their organization’s membership.
The GMC has investments totaling around £870,000 in food and soft drink companies Nestlé, McDonald’s, Starbucks, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Unilever, which owns brands such as Magnum Walls and Ben & Jerry’s.
The regulator, which charges UK doctors a one-off registration fee of £161 and then £420 annual continuing fee, has also invested more than £1.2m in drug companies since 2019.
Last night, doctors’ leaders said they would be “horrified” to see how their money was used, likening it to pouring money into tobacco companies.
GP Sam Everington, chair of the Tower Hamlets medical commissioning group, said: ‘They will be horrified to find out that their money is being invested in fast food companies that cause so much disease, reduce the quality and quantity of life and significantly more stress. On the NHS and the workload of doctors. “This is not different from investing in tobacco companies,” he added. Almost two-thirds of people in the UK are overweight or obese, which increases the risk of many health problems from type 2 diabetes to several types of cancer.
Doctors unwittingly fund fast food companies while paying fees to their regulators. [File image]
The rise of fast food outlets is seen as a driving factor for obesity especially among young adults, with a third of children becoming overweight or obese by the time they start secondary school.
A freedom of information request by the British Medical Journal revealed that the regulator had funds tied to fast food and soft drink companies.
It also found that more than £1.2m was put into drug companies, including Novo Nordisk, AstraZeneca, Merck and Roche, while around £470,000 went to private insurers or healthcare providers such as Humana Health and UnitedHealth Group.
More than £1.3m has also been invested in a number of medical device manufacturers including Edwards LifeSciences, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Intuitive Medical, makers of the da Vinci robotic surgical system.
The British Medical Journal found that the General Medical Council has investments of nearly £870,000 in food and soft drink companies Nestlé, McDonald’s, Starbucks, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Unilever. [File image]
The regulator invests its money through the Churches, Charities and Local Authority Investment Administration (CCLA). She told the British magazine that she has a say in what CCLA invests in all decisions and accesses through CCLA reports.
GMC CCLA awarded £50m to invest in 2019, which as of January 2023 amounts to £81.3m consisting of investments in companies, funds, private equity firms, real estate, cash and money market securities.
Martin Mackie, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: ‘Many doctors whose work includes dealing with the harms of junk food marketing, if they knew, would despair of how to invest their money. A spokesperson for GMC said it has a duty to ensure that it protects and preserves 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 lending.