by Marion Nestle
Apr 28 2012

Reuters: How the White House wobbled on childhood obesity

I am in Brazil at meetings of World Nutrition Rio 2012 but was deluged yesterday by links to a lengthy Reuters’ Special Report: How Washington went soft on childhood obesity.

In an e-mail, Reuters explains that its report is about how food and beverage companies dominate policymaking in Washington, doubled lobbying expenditures during the past three years, and defeated government proposals aimed at changing the nation’s diet.

  • The White House, despite First Lady Michelle Obama’s child obesity campaign, kept silent as Congress killed a plan by four federal agencies to recommend reductions to sugar, salt and fat in food marketed to children.
  • Corporate lobbying last year led Congress to declare pizza a vegetable to protect it from a nutritional overhaul in the school lunch program.
  • The Center for Science in the Public Interest, widely regarded as the lead lobbying force for healthier food, spent about $70,000 lobbying– roughly what companies opposing stricter food guidelines spent every 13 hours.
  • The food and beverage industry has a near-perfect record in political battle even while health authorities link unhealthy food to the child obesity epidemic.
  • During the past two years, each of the 24 states and five cities that considered “soda taxes” has seen the efforts dropped or defeated.

Reuters Investigates also has a video about how the food industry fought back when the White House sought healthier school lunches and Congress directed federal agencies to set nutrition standards.

Readers of this blog may recall my post last December fretting about the White House pullback, and the vigorous denial the next day by White House senior food policy advisor Sam Kass.

I attributed White House caution to the upcoming election.  Reuters does too, apparently, and so does the New York Times

If the First Lady is to make real progress on Let’s Move, she needs all the support she can get.  This might be a good time to send a note to the White House strongly encouraging more vigorous action on methods to address childhood obesity.

  • http://www.dropitandeat.blogspot.com Lori Lieberman, RD, CDE, MPH, LDN

    Yes, “children are easy marks for advertisers” (as today’s NY Times’ piece about your blog subject states) but parents should be better at parenting! School-age kids are not buying their own Fruit Loops. And kids should be taught balance vs. viewing foods as either good or bad. Make foods forbidden and we increase demand. Demonizing individual foods is no solution. Portion management is essential. But labeling to promote calorie counting (as demonstrated in restaurants) has proven ineffective in controlling our eating and weight—except among my anorexic patients. Kids, and adults, need better tools for changing their behaviors to regulate weight (see http://www.dropitandeat.blogspotcom). And those aren’t coming from these stalled policies.

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    Yes, “adults are easy marks for advertisers” (as today’s NY Times’ piece about your blog subject states) but adults should be better at living! Adults are not producing their own Fossil Fuels. And adults should be taught balance vs. viewing fossil fuels as either good or bad. Make oil, coal and gas forbidden and we increase demand. Demonizing individual fossil energies is no solution. Portion management is essential. But labeling to promote ‘energy’ counting (as demonstrated in the “greening” of media) has proven ineffective in controlling our fossil eating and cultural weight—except among my anorexic patients (leftist boycott reactionaries). Kids, and adults, need better tools for changing their behaviors to regulate cultural weight. And those aren’t coming from these stalled policies.

    [ad libs for problems that are more complicated than my solution]

  • Michael Bulger

    Actually, Lori, kids are buying their own Fruit Loops and other foods. They do so in schools, at corner stores, and elsewhere. And kids today are in more control of their food purchases then kids of the past. They also influence parents purchases, and parents are themselves affected by advertising.

    There are plenty of studies that you can access that will help you learn more about children and food choices.

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  • Darliene Howell

    I would like to recommend the free NAAFA Child Advocacy ToolkitSM (CATK) and other written guidelines/resources to assist you looking at programs.

    A Yale Rudd Center report reviewed existing research on weight stigma in children and adolescents, with attention to the nature and extent of weight bias toward obese youths and to the primary sources of stigma in their lives, including peers, educators, and parents. As a result of weight bias and discrimination, obese children suffer psychological, social, and health-related consequences. http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/resources/upload/docs/what/bias/StigmaObesityChildrensHealth.pdf

    Rebecca Puhl of the Rudd Center further brings to light the stigmatization of large children in the following article.
    http://www.obesityaction.org/magazine/oacnews7/Childhood%20Obesity%20and%20Stigma.pdf

    The NAAFA Child Advocacy Toolkit shows how Health At Every Size® takes the focus off weight and directs it to healthful eating and enjoyable movement. It addresses the bullying, building positive self-image and eliminating stigmatization of large children. The CATK lists resources available to parents, educators or caregivers for educational materials, curriculum and programming that is beneficial for all children. It can be found at:
    http://issuu.com/naafa/docs/naafa_childadvocacy2011combined_v04?viewMode=magazine&mode=embed

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  • Renee Hefti – Graham

    http://www.change.org/petitions/mayor-cory-booker-newark-new-jersey-usa-stop-the-hypocritical-newarknestle-campaign-to-target-childhood-obesity?share_id=HDVyjOmNmk&.

    Nestle formula company is setting themselves up, across the US and throughout the world, as the “educators” to target childhood obesity despite formula being one of the major causes of obesity and other illnesses. In exchange for a “free” program, to supposedly, target obesity, (Nestle formula logos are on their press release) and a $100,000.00, Mayor Booker of Newark NJ is planning to let Nestle “educate” about breastfeeding and nutrition at all 15 Family Success Centers.

    Mayor Booker is corrupting the First Lady’s campaign,”Let’s Move!” by calling his campaign, “Let’s Move Newark”. A petition to ask the Mayor to say no to Nestle has more than 2,000 signatures from more than 50 countries. Google: Health Petition Stop Newark Nestle Nestle now.
    Please support the petition.

    Governor Rick Snyder has agreed to Nestle “educating” in all medical school, hospitals and communities in the whole State of Michigan. Wonder how much Nestle paid “to buy” that right?

    Media Articles:
    http://mothering.com/peggyomara/breastfeeding-2/no-nestle-in-newark
    (note photo of Mayor accepting Nestle’s check in front of Nestle logos)

    http://mothering.com/all-things-mothering/take-action/news/newark-and-nestle-partnership-theres-nothing-sweet-about-it

    http://healthland.time.com/2012/04/27/can-a-formula-company-really-promote-breast-feeding-and-fight-child-obesity/

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