The impending merger of the world’s two largest beer manufacturers represents a global health threat, experts warned this week. They said the merger could worsen the growing epidemic of alcohol-related harm in low- and middle-income countries.
Last month, Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev and London-based SAB Miller announced they have agreed in principal to merge, MedicalXpress reports. The new company will produce an estimated one-third of all beer sold worldwide, Professor Jeff Collin and colleagues at the University of Edinburgh wrote in The BMJ.
The companies hope to expand in developing nations, with a particular emphasis on Africa as “a critical driver of growth for the combined company,” the researchers noted.
“The health implications of this forecast are disturbing: market growth on this scale is predicated on exploiting Africa’s low per capita consumption of beer, targeting low-income consumers to drive increased sales,” Collin and colleagues wrote. The merged companies’ plan “echoes that of transnational tobacco companies, with which the alcohol industry shares strategic similarities and has close corporate links as well as comparable health effects,” they added.
They noted that the global alcohol industry “continues to occupy an ambiguous space in which an indirect acknowledgement of serious health effects coexists with the prospect of partnerships and shared objectives.”
They urge the public health community to “do more to ensure that conflict of interest with alcohol companies is recognized and addressed.”