Ethics in Medicine

Ounce of prevention: Junk Food

Kristen Sparrow • December 13, 2011

One more story ripped from the headlines, another chapter in “an ounce of prevention.s’
Article in the SF Chron

Food giants fight proposed nutrition guidelines

An effort by four federal agencies to limit marketing of junk food to children has provoked a fight between the packaged food industry and public health groups as intense as the cigarette wars of the 1980s.

The agency guidelines, ordered by Congress in 2009, are due this month after a 1 1/2-year delay. They will be scaled back after a ferocious lobbying campaign by food manufacturers who fear that Twinkies are fast becoming the next tobacco.

The stakes are high, both for the $1 trillion food industry and for public health groups alarmed by Americans’ growing girth. Whether a child develops a taste for fruit or Froot Loops can establish lifelong eating patterns that translate to billions of dollars in sales of packaged foods and potentially devastating consequences for public health.

We know that childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions. A third of poor preschoolers are now obese by age 5. Obese children are more likely to become obese adults with all the resulting health problems.
Michele Simon author of “Appetite for Profit” says “Industry knows they have to get the kids while they’re young because they want them hooked on their products…”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, The FDA, and the Department of Agriculture have issued “voluntary guidelines.”
Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, said obesity is now about as costly to public health as smoking and said that the food industry behavior is “remarkably parallel” to that of the tobacco companies years ago.

That means, he said, “considering children prey, doing whatever they can do to circumvent parental awareness, and marketing in ways that develop strong brand loyalties at very early ages for junk food.”…
“Most moms would agree that Kool-Aid and Cocoa Puffs are not healthy,” Wootan said. “Certainly nutritionists would. The only ones who think those foods are healthy is the food industry itself.”

Lots of money to made in the junk food, er, “packaged food” industry. The public health costs of diabetes, heart disease, etc… will be on us. No incentives for prevention in our society.

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