by Marion Nestle
Oct 18 2012

The New England Journal takes on the food industry

Last week’s New England Journal of Medicine weighs in with several commentaries and research articles.  Some of these were published earlier in online versions:

And this week, it has another on using tax strategies to promote public health.

It looks to me as though the health establishment is finally catching on to what obesity is really about and giving serious thought to what to do about it.  This is important work.

  • chuck

    i am confused. what is obesity about? is obesity caused by lack of government intervention? or is it caused by the wrong government intervention? or is it caused by too much government intervention?

  • jennifer

    This is ridiculous. The problem is not government regulation of these items, it is the choices the individuals in society make. It is one (good) thing to regulate the sugared sodas and candy available in public schools, it is quite another to regulate private enterprise groceries and markets.

    Perhaps the West could practice what France does in their food education? THAT would be the sort of regulation I would welcome and promote from the government.

    It is one thing to avoid the bad. It is entirely another to be able to choose what is great.

  • Chuck, it’s about a food environment that developed due to free-market strategies which by their nature require that they continuously market, get people to eat more and more, buy more etc.

    There is an illusion of choice that makes people believe that obesity is a personal problem, and yet we find that policies that undermine marketing tactics are the most effective at preventing the problem. For example, preventing soda from being marketed to students in schools results in lower rates of child obesity, even if you do nothing to prevent students from bringing in sodas themselves. In many cases there are not healthy options to choose from, combined with the fact that chemically the uber-sugared drinks and very high fats are quite addictive.

  • pawpaw

    McDonald’s now has calories prominently displayed on their menus, including drive-by. Not sure of the factors that drove them to this, but it is a positive step.

    High-reward, high palability foods while you are waiting in line to checkout in many stores? To me that’s manipulation. We as a nation could do without the temptation of these extra calories.

    I’ve thanked the local gas station that has fruit (apples, oranges, bananas, raisins, nuts, etc) at the checkout, more prominently than the candy bars.

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  • chuck


    parents need to educate their offspring that soda is crap. advertising is a way to get people to buy more. tell kids not to believe advertising and don ‘t buy them or let them buy crap.

  • KE

    According to National Geographic, since the early 1900s, vegetable variety has decreased by 93%. The laughable Agricultural Acts of the past 70 years have left no room for choice. The industry raped you of your choices long ago and continue to suppress your full health potential with the help of marketing companies and food scientists who create addictive foods.

    That said, the government’s motives for such Farm Bills are irrelevant and the only way to find balance is strangling the industry with regulation. Hopefully 200 years from now, humans will be laughing at a regulation to keep soda out of schools because soda is so elusive.

  • Michael Bulger


    Long-story short: By labeling calories, McDonald’s is doing what will soon be required by law.

    The Health Care Reform Act signed by Obama (aka “Obamacare”) requires restaurant chains with twenty or more locations to disclose the calorie amounts on all menus. The actual rules mandated by the law haven’t become official, so that’s why you don’t see every fast food chain labeling there menus just yet.

    Government policies require the FDA to jump through hoops before a rule becomes official. FDA has to propose rules, take public comments, revise, and then submit the rules for final approval. For menu labeling, the process is presumably somewhere in the revising stage.

  • Karin Burger

    When I became a mother, the relentless marketing if sweets and other processed snack foods became totally apparent. It’s an uphill battle that is quite easy to lose ground on.

  • It’s an important step that we’re seeing more of these research articles from credible scientific journals. Clearly there’s no single contributing factor to obesity but education, awareness, responsible parenting, and a requirement that food establishments actually tell us what’s in the food we’re eating are all relevant.

  • Good for academia!