America’s food industry groups are the next tobacco companies. They have enormous influence. They receive massive government subsidies. They contribute to the poor health of Americans and they do so without shame. And they lie.
One of the results of their handiwork was released Tuesday when the federal government, through the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, unveiled its new dietary guidelines. The department rejected the recommendations of its scientific community that Americans reduce both their sugar and alcohol consumption.
A spokesman for the agency was quoted as saying “the new evidence is not substantial enough to support changes to quantitative recommendations for either added sugars or alcohol.”
That, of course, is complete nonsense. The scientific committee, made up of 20 highly qualified academics, had recommended reducing the limit of “added sugars” to six percent of a person’s daily calories, down from 10 percent. The scientists had also recommended limiting the number of alcoholic beverages for men from two drinks per day, to one, the same guidance used for women.
The reason the Ag department rejected the advice from their scientists is that the food industry lobbied against the recommendations. Furiously. Leading the charge was the sugar industry, one of the nation’s most heavily subsidized industries, an industry long known for trying to convince the public that sugar was actually healthy.
It’s a case where the fattest wallet wins.
It’s also not an issue that can be pinned on the Trump Administration, or administrations before. It wasn’t that long ago that Congress declared pizza a vegetable just to protect it from a nutritional overhaul of the school lunch program. In fact, the food industry never loses when it battles Congress, or an administration.
As a nation, we have the poor health to prove it. America is one of the fattest, least healthy nations on earth. It’s estimated that three-quarters of us are overweight or obese. Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years. Obesity is an epidemic and it is the leading contributor to chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, etc.
Scientists are predicting that today’s children may be the first generation to have a shorter life span than their parents. All because of obesity and chronic disease associated with it. All because the food industry has the power and the influence to override our elected leaders.
What’s astounding about the food industry’s strength, is that it also trumps the strength of the nation’s medical community.
We complain about the cost of health care, but 84 percent of health care costs deal with chronic illness, illnesses that can, by definition, be controlled. Yet, if we don’t focus on what is required for us to lead healthy lives, how can we ever expect to pay less for health care?
In Vermont, for example, 41 percent of our first, third and fifth graders are overweight or obese, which is multiple times the percent of their grandparents generation. If that trend is not stopped, not only will our children have shorter life spans, the cost of health care will soar. Instead of needing care at age 60, they will need care a generation earlier.
The bill will be enormous.
Think about that.
It should make you furious.
by Emerson Lynn