Brownell says that “when the history of the world’s attempt to address obesity is written, the greatest failure may be collaboration with and appeasement of the food industry.” Up until now, the public health sector and the big food industries have been “working together,” and the food manufacturers consistently throw out measures that are intended to appease, including big donations to health care facilities and the production of healthier processed foods.
The food industry “has been in high gear, making promises to behave better, but their minor progress creates an impression of change while larger attempts to subvert the agenda carry on.” These food manufacturers are failing marketing initiatives, continuing to increase serving sizes, and creating an endless stream of sugary beverages (vitamin waters, really?).
Brownell says it best: “The obesity problem has industry’s attention, and they are doing things. The question is whether these things are meaningful or are the predictable behavior of an industry under threat and are designed to stop rather than support public health efforts.” He argues that big food has no incentive to do what it needs to do (sell less processed food) and instead of making small concessions and hoping that the food industry will come around, we should be regulating them just like we regulate other industries. I tend to agree with him and would love to hear his ideas for how specifically we should start regulating.
However, there are other groups approaching this issue from the other side. The American Medical Association voted recently to promote taxation of sugary beverages. According to the AMA, sugary beverages account for half of our intake of added sugars, and “a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened drinks would lower obesity rates by 5 percent and would save $17 billion in medical costs over 10 years.” (I’ve also previously posted about soda taxes.) Some countries even have fat taxes.
Which approach do you agree with? Perhaps some of both? I would love to hear what you think!