The obesity blame game- reader feedback

Related tags Food industry Nutrition

Last week's comment on the food industry's role in the rising
obesity epidemic has generated a flood of responses from readers
agreeing with or disputing our position that the industry deserves
a break. Some of the comments received are published below.

To read the original article, click here​. "On the issue of obesity, blame gets us nowhere - I agree. But you can't argue that the industrialized food model, albeit one that brings us a higher standard of food safety, has created a competitive production system whereby the bottom line - pleasing the stockholders - is the sole impetus for any innovative thought on food and health. Most companies genuinely don't care about the health of their consumers. The innovations are reactionary, short-sighted and aim to please the pocketbooks.

I commend the food industry for moving towards healthier food options but they do it because they care about their stock prices, not their customer's waistline." Sally Lynch Nutrition Designs

"As a Registered Dietitian in the US, I commend your article as right on target. What most of us eat is by choice." Kellie Hallaron​ "Thank you for putting into print what is so plainly obvious and completely logical, yet our 'increasingly evolving' society seems to fail to fully recognize this.

Unfortunately, our society no longer feels compelled to take any responsibility for the majority of their actions - it's always someone else's fault. (…) Hopefully, with more attention given to the 'blame game', people will start to look at society and perhaps take more responsibility for the way they live there lives - but I doubt it." Andrew Jervis Pilot Plant Technician - R&D Parmalat Australia Ltd​ "I read your recent commentary about the 'obesity blame game' with much interest. And while I agree that in its simplest terms, overweight does mean an imbalance (between) energy intake versus energy burned, the full equation is not quite so simple.

First, there's marketing. Foods are marketed in a manner that's indescribably more aggressive than they were during our nation's leaner times, counter to your statement that practices have not changed dramatically from what they were years ago. You truly cannot escape advertisements for any kind of food these days. Food ads can be found on city buses and taxis, in elevators and bathrooms, sprinkled throughout movies, online, on cash register receipts, at the movie theatre before and after the previews, and, of course, throughout television programming, including programming aimed at children (…)

The fact is that while they tout 'health,' food and beverage manufacturers are doing their best to get us all to consume more​. It is a personal decision, but it's very hard to fight against so much marketing that is designed to get inside our brains and under our skin.

Second, there's size. While the trend toward '100-calorie' portions is step in the right direction, many other products have not trended in that direction. The standard size soda these days, is a 20-oz bottle (…) Many snack foods are sold in packages that appear to be one serving, but in reality serve two or two and half tiny servings.

Finally, many of the strides you comment on are very self-serving. The 'better for you' smart spots are self-regulated. PepsiCo, Kraft, and General Mills decide what's better for you, not an independent panel of nutritionists. The whole grains included in cereals and other foods are often a small part of the total processed grains of the full serving (…)

So, do I think the food industry deserves to accept the blame leveled its way? Yes, I do. Bottom line, manufacturers are making changes because they fear regulation. There's also a demographic that is looking for healthy food and they want to market to that group. You'll pardon me if I refrain from applauding." Dee Boling​ "The food industry relies on the public trust. Their efforts to defend their aggressive marketing practices in schools, to oppose increased food labeling and nutritional information on fast food menus is likely to be seen as obstructionist. One trend in the US that runs counter to food industry posturing has been the increasing size of portions (…) One wonders whether the public should be warned of the nutritional content of (certain) products. Do you see any advantage to the industry in continuing to resist that? I just wonder if that position is 'good business' in the long run." Lee Allen CFA Allen Financial Advisors, Inc.​ "When the food industry responds like they have, they have put the ball back in the consumer's court. It is up to us as adults to show a little restraint, or to reward ourselves in another way besides having another doughnut or whatever while we sit and watch our favorite movie. Glenda Downing 'The obesity blame game'​ article hits the nail on the head. Consumers cannot keep blaming the food manufacturers or the restaurants. They need to turn the other four fingers back at themselves." Karen Ambrecht Shasta County Public Health​ "In your interesting article 'The obesity blame game'​, you absolve the food industry of blame for the current obesity epidemic even though the public has them firmly in the crosshairs. I disagree that food processors, however, can be called "admirable" for their switch to low-fat, low-calorie, multi-grain, functional products - to me, this is merely self-interest, making products healthier in hopes to selling more of them. Just because it has the added benefit of putting slightly healthier foods on the market does not mean we should toss rose petals and confetti at food companies." Murray Tong​ "Even if industry had refused to respond to 'political obesity', there still would not have been any cause to blame it for individuals being overweight.

Obesity is an individual's problem and it can only be solved by the individual changing his/her lifestyle and dietary habits.

Industry became the target of political pressure, running on the idea that government can use industry as a venue for solving social (financial) problems while at the same time making a scapegoat of the venue used.

Industry should have resisted (becoming) a government 'spokesman' on fundamental grounds.

There's much good in healthy products, provided that such products are manufactured as the result of the manufacturer's own free choice. 'Political obesity' exhausts a manufacturer's right to participate in markets on the basis of freedom of choice and to make and offer products for which there's a consumer need.

Political pressure is put on the food industry simply because government cannot -yet- dictate​ diets." Bert SchwittersAny views or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of readers and do not necessarily represent those of Decision News Media.

If you would like to comment further, please contact Lorraine Heller​.

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