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Healthcare vs. Processed Food Industry

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, March 13, 2013

This would be a laughable mismatch if it weren't for the fact that millions of people are suffering and dying as a result of this calculated effort to hook them on food that is not good for them.

Even in the face of these overwhelming odds, healthcare providers should not despair. Just as the processed food industry had borrowed tactics used by Big Tobacco, so too can physicians and other health advocates use the highly successful tactics of the anti-smoking movement to press for change.

Corporations that put profits above the public good respond to two base stimuli: fear and greed. Healthcare providers can hit both of those bliss points by using their collective status as trusted advocates for the public good to clearly blame and aggressively pressure the processed food industry for its role in nation's overweight and obesity epidemic.

Already we are seeing some movement. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for example, has gotten a lot of coverage for his efforts to ban super-sized sugary drinks as a public health menace. His efforts may get derailed in the courts, but the publicity he has generated is worth it. Consciousness has been raised. People are asking questions and that is a good start.

The sad truth is that wellness movements by themselves aren't enough to reverse the obesity and overweight epidemic, no matter how well-intentioned or proactive. They will fail unless we address the larger issue of what people eat. The processed food industry must be held accountable and pressured to modify the addictive junk it peddles to the American people.

Healthcare providers, the people who see first-hand the devastating effects of overweight and obesity, must lead this fight.  


John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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3 comments on "Healthcare vs. Processed Food Industry"


mperron (3/14/2013 at 9:37 AM)
Great story and comments. Are there scientists working with companies such as Coca Cola and Doritos that fit our taste bud desires but in a healthy way? Can't they reformulate Doritos, for example, to keep the great taste and crunch without sacrificing nutrition? Is there a movement or a push for this somewhere?

Bruce E. Woych (3/13/2013 at 5:13 PM)
The label "junk" food is no longer valid as a comprehensive category. Pleasure foods; industrial waste foods; shelf life foods; modified chemically preserved foods and perhaps the more benign processed foods are all part of the problems. Ask your local forensics authority...you will discover that they are finding that intestines are literally preserved by food additives. The quest for shelf life has been beneficial from its start, but new market interests no longer care about nutritional preservation in that process. Junk foods are staples for poverty stricken people, and the children are the victims. I defy anyone to tell me that the junk foods (packaged cakes etc.)are not learned habit; and market driven venders create "comfort junkie habits" and behavioral conditioning is no true reward...

mkparker1210 (3/13/2013 at 3:02 PM)
I enjoy junk food in moderation[INVALID]-it should be a special treat. While obesity and poor health related to malnutrition can be traced to poor dietary habits, I don't believe junk food is responsible for all the evils attributed to it. Here are just a few of the problems obesity and poor health have had laid at their doorstep: sodium, corn syrup, gun violence, poverty, health literacy, genetics, a 24/7 culture, poor sleeping habits, gaming/internet, advertising, product placement (like physically at the checkout counter in addition to television and paper advertisements)...I could go on. Obesity and other related health problems are a multi-faceted problem. What if the problem with obesity was a culture change in the 1970's that made it ok to snack or eat constantly between meals? To walk around with a drink in your hand or something on your desk? To not eat meals as a family or a somewhat more formal occasion at a table instead of in a car or in front of a screen? I don't think laws restricting access are the answer. I think mindfulness and a culture change are what we really need. Making food "communion" in all senses of the word becomes the first step.