Tying the scale of Big Food’s health impacts to those of cigarettes is based on an analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of our national weight gain. Our national weight crisis is a health epidemic that is literally killing us: 300,000 Americans will die this year from obesity. This is comparable to the death rate tied to smoking cigarettes.
Fingers of blame can be pointed at all of us for sitting too much and exercising too little. But what we eat is the foundation of our weight crisis. We are being sold, and we are buying, the equivalent of obesity cigarettes. Big Food (and sodas) are harming our health, threatening our children’s future and driving us toward medical cost bankruptcy.
The obvious ideal solution is for the Big Food industry to immediately redesign their products around human health. Instead, Big Food is pursuing an incremental “do less harm” strategy that attempts to grow sales while promising improvements like the removal of artificial coloring or flavors. A classic example is how Wendy’s worked to figure out how to include blueberries in a salad while aggressively promoting their Baconator Hamburger. This raises the question of whether Big Food’s lack of meaningful actions (measured by improved human health) will force America to regulate Big Food like it does the cigarette industry?
We addressed the auto industry’s resistance to adopting increased safety features by mandating the use of seat belts and air bags. The result has been a meaningful reduction in vehicle accident deaths even as we annually drive millions more miles. Today’s automobile manufacturers promote their vehicle safety to win customers and grow sales.
Most telling in terms of Big Food, our country took steps to curtail the sale of cigarettes. Today we are at record lows in terms of Americans smoking.
A question that should be raised is whether government action is now required if the Big Food industry continues down the path of incremental changes that fail to meaningfully help Americans to lose weight.
Or the industry can continue its course and face a future where their products are increasingly compared to cigarettes and consumers/voters demand their regulation.
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Bill Roth is a cleantech business pioneer having led teams that developed the first hydrogen fueled Prius and a utility scale, non-thermal solar power plant. Using his CEO and senior officer experiences, Roth has coached hundreds of CEOs and business owners on how to develop and implement projects that win customers and cut costs while reducing environmental impacts. As a professional economist, Roth has written numerous books including his best selling The Secret Green Sauce (available on Amazon) that profiles proven sustainable best practices in pricing, marketing and operations. His most recent book, The Boomer Generation Diet (available on Amazon) profiles his humorous personal story on how he used sustainable best practices to lose 40 pounds and still enjoy Happy Hour!