Food in its many manifestations allows us to explore the global control of health and to examine the ways in which food choice is moulded by many interests. The global food market is controlled by a small number of companies who operate a system that delivers ‘cheap’ food to the countries of the developed world. This ‘cheap’ food comes at a price, which externalises costs to the nation state in terms of health consequences (diabetes, coronary heart disease and other food-related diseases) and to the environment in terms of pollution and the associated clean-up strategies. Food policy has not to any great extent dealt with these issues, opting instead for an approach based on nutrition, food choice and biomedical health. Ignoring wider elements of the food system including issues of ecology and sustainability constrains a broader understanding within public health nutrition. Here we argue that public health nutrition, through the medium of health promotion, needs to address these wider issues of who controls the food supply, and thus the influences on the food chain and the food choices of the individual and communities. Such an upstream approach to food policy (one that has been learned from work on tobacco) is necessary if we are seriously to influence food choice.