Bush and Big Food

The NYTimes reports:

In hopes of getting ahead of the problem, the W.H.O. has drafted a “global strategy on diet, physical activity and health.” Meant to be culturally and regionally responsive, the strategy calls for more physical activity, a reduction in sugars, fats and salt and an increase in fresh fruit, whole grains, legumes and nuts. In other words, exactly what your doctor would recommend if you asked how to lose weight and improve your health. The plan has provoked an outcry from the American food industry — especially the Sugar Association — and that, predictably, has led the Bush administration to request changes. William Steiger, a special assistant in the Department of Health and Human Services, sent a 30-page critique to W.H.O. last month, and his boss, Secretary Tommy Thompson, and members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association flew to Geneva to ask for more time to comment.

The administration and the sugar industry, which has a long history of generous giving to both political parties, seem particularly disturbed at W.H.O.’s proposals that countries be urged to limit advertising, especially ads directed at children, encouraging unhealthy diets and that schools should limit “availability of products high in salt, sugar and fats.” Their counterarguments — that no one has proved that advertising causes obesity, and that W.H.O. does not place enough emphasis on personal responsibility — seem particularly unrealistic for a program targeted in part at children.

No evidence?
TV ads blamed for rise in child obesity

Why is the sugar industry fighting this so hard? Because they make up 50% of advertising to children in the U.S.

NUTRITION POLICY PROFILES: RESTRICTING TELEVISION ADVERTISING TO CHILDREN

And that personal responsibility individualism line is bullsh*t. As this article points out: “Advertising is often credited with promoting that bastion of consumer freedom – choice,” the report states. “But the choice that food advertising presents children is largely between one candy bar and another, the latest savoury snack or sweetened breakfast cereal or fast food restaurant – hardly the kind of choices which encourage a healthy, balanced diet.”

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