How Washington lost the war on childhood obesity

How Washington lost the war on childhood obesity

Food industry hasn’t lost a single fight with DC despite mounting evidence that unhealthy food causes obesity

Image: To match Special Report USA-FOODLOBBY/

Mike Blake  /  Reuters

Pizza is shown for sale in the cafeteria at a middle school in San Diego, Calif. After aggressive lobbying, Congress declared pizza a vegetable to protect it from a nutritional overhaul of school lunch programs across the U.S.
By Duff Wilson and Janet Roberts

updated 2 hours 33 minutes ago
  • In the political arena, one side is winning the war on child obesity.

The side with the fattest wallets.

After aggressive lobbying, Congress declared pizza a vegetable to protect it from a nutritional overhaul of the school lunch program this year. The White House kept silent last year as Congress killed a plan by four federal agencies to reduce sugar, salt and fat in food marketed to children.

And during the past two years, each of the 24 states and five cities that considered “soda taxes” to discourage consumption of sugary drinks has seen the efforts dropped or defeated.

At every level of government, the food and beverage industries won fight after fight during the last decade. They have never lost a significant political battle in the United States despite mounting scientific evidence of the role of unhealthy food and children’s marketing in obesity.

Lobbying records analyzed by Reuters reveal that the industries more than doubled their spending in Washington during the past three years. In the process, they largely dominated policymaking — pledging voluntary action while defeating government proposals aimed at changing the nation’s diet, dozens of interviews show.

In contrast, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, widely regarded as the lead lobbying force for healthier food, spent about $70,000 lobbying last year — roughly what those opposing the stricter guidelines spent every 13 hours, the Reuters analysis showed.

Industry critics also contend that the White House all but abandoned a multi-agency effort that recommended healthier food be marketed to children, even after First Lady Michelle Obama told a grocery trade group two years ago that food manufacturers needed to “step it up” to protect children.

“I’m upset with the White House,” said Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Health Committee. “They went wobbly in the knees. When it comes to kids’ health, they shouldn’t go wobbly in the knees.”

(Read Full Article)

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