The System is Broken: How DC is Mishandling Obesity

Obesity Chart

Source: LA Times

The Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) projects a thirty percent increase in obesity rates by 2030 to 41% of the US population. The toll on our economy – a whopping half a trillion dollars over the next 2 decades!

That doesn’t seem to bother other branches of the government, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), whose Chairman Jon Leibowitz recently said that “it’s probably time to move on” from attempts to regulate junk food marketing to children. In a letter in The Wall Street Journal he further stressed that “the commission does not support legislation restricting food advertising to children.” (More on AdAge).

Another government agency, the USDA, is acknowledging childhood obesity and has recently allotted another few cents per meal for its school lunch program. But at the same time, the Farm Bill continues to perpetuate obesogenic crops through subsidies for corn (high fructose corn syrup), for example. Why would the same entity charged with increasing sales of farm commodities also be the one responsible for our children’s health?

Then we have Congress. Utterly clueless, our representatives recently voted pizza as a vegetable so it can be served more often school lunches.

On to the White House. While the First Lady has her heart in the right place, her program Let’s Move which originally focused on food and exercise, has mostly shifted attention to the easier of the two – working out. No enemies made when everyone can agree “we need to exercise more”.

Against this backdrop is a well oiled marketing and lobbying machine, representing the interests of mega corporations doing what they do best, maximizing their profit. There are no bad guys here. Everyone wants what’s best for their constituents. And when your shareholders demand more profit, by gosh, you the CEO of JunkFoodCorp, will figure out how to sell more. Never mind the collateral damage.

Many of you comment on this blog that the government has no right interfering with people’s decision of what to buy or eat. You are right. Nobody should tell you what you have to eat right now. But the government should have a say in creating a health conducive food environment for us. This includes a shift in subsidies to fresh fruit and vegetables, limitations on junk food marketing to kids, incentives for healthy food purchases by food stamp recipients, to name a few suggestions.

When will we realize that government regulation in business affairs comes to protect us as consumers, not turn us into a communist regime?  We better demand change, before we’ll collapse under the weight of our own … weight.

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  • squeaker76

    They have ratings for movies, video games and music.  Why not start a rating for food? I would love to see the rating that fooducate creates for food on the label.  Not all of us “want” to eat unhealthy, but we are tricked in to thinking something is good for us when it is truly not.  I think Nutella is a good example of that.  

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

      Thanks for your vote of confidence.

  • sdmk76

    How about listing calories on the menu?  Not hidden way in the back where no one notices them, but right there next to the price?  It is much easier to make a healthier decision when those numbers are right in your face. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/ptucker2008 Patricia Neal Tucker

    I agree. The government shouldn’t tell people how to live their life. However, please don’t make me pay for increased health insurance premiums and increasing taxes to support Medicaid because people have health problems related to their food choices. 

  • Dawgteacher

    I agree with calorie posting. When we realized that the onion blossom appetizer served at our favorite restaurant had over 2000 calories we stopped having it. Very simple.

  • http://www.thefrugaldietitian.com/ Nancy

    Change the choices that SNAP (food stamps) can choose from, make them healthier. WIC (Women,Infant,Children) program has done it.

  • http://www.thefrugaldietitian.com/ Nancy

    Also less gov’t intervention – more taking personal responsibility!!!

  • Catherine

    I don’t understand people saying the government shouldn’t regulate our food and tell us what to eat.  They already do!  Why not have them do it in a positive way instead?

  • Ken Leebow

    We do not have an obesity epidemic. 

    We need to address the cause and effect. The cause is the horrific food. Now skip over obesity and go directly to disease. Of course, the disease takes many years to appear.The other problem … millions of people are addicted to the Standard American Diet … it’s not a lot different than being an alcoholic or a smoker. We crave salt, sugar, and fat. The Main Street Diet (www.TheMainStreetDiet.com) offers an abundance of it … and it tastes great.M&M’s has a incredible ad campaign that states the problem: Salty. Sweet. Impossible to resist. (Here’s the visual … http://bit.ly/nQNUYU)There is a way to leave the Main Street Diet, however, the government does not have the solution.Ken Leebowwww.SatietyandTaste.com

  • Trishg79

    There is not enough nutrition education these days. And that’s for a reason, because if everyone figures out that soda and fast food, etc. are all bad for you and stop eating it, then the government starts to lose money. Educate your children and peers people on eating healthy! This is the only way to cure obesity!

  • Judy

    Truly we need a fruit & veggie lobby that has the budget of the dairy lobby. I would love to see healthy eating taught in the schools. Because they don’t learn at home, kids have no idea how to eat right. The USDA can make the school lunches healthier, but the kids will still tend to gravitate toward eating the junkiest part of the meal and trash the rest. I sometimes work in my son’s school cafeteria and watch as child after child gives back or throws away the fresh fruit they are given and won’t eat a few shreds of lettuce unless they are coated with ranch dressing. These kids are our coming obesity epidemic :-(

  • FedUpWithFoodieAsshats

    Fat people are ruining the economy! We might have guessed. Fat-bashing knows no bounds. It is the new, socially acceptable form of bigotry. I am not fat, not overweight at all but I bet a lot of you fat-bashing asshats are paunchy as hell bravely hiding behind your keyboards. You pathetic braying jackasses wouldn’t know “half a trillion dollars” if it jumped up and bit you on your flabby asscheeks. Stupid fucking foodie hatemongers.

  • GW

    You’re exactly right. The government has subsidized grain crops, so we have an abundance of tax payer supported highly processed foods from corn that include processed grains and high fructose corn syrup which can be found in a huge proportions in cheap, low fat and fat free foods, and it’s ruining our health. Your suggestions are excellent. Just like alcohol and tobacco, add taxes to foods that are known to be unhealthy. Unfortunately, the FDA has a horrible record of figuring that out since we’re supposed to be eating plenty of whole wheat which slams glucose levels the same as white bread or ice cream or table sugar. Whole grains like whole wheat are a terrible choice.  Check the glycemic index. 

  • Rainredmond05

    Hi Hemi,
    One thing that has worked for me for the past 14 years is to choose a home close to the things I do most:  grocery store, library, school, work.  This way me (and my family) can walk or bike to the things we do the most.

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