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.