There have been two relatively popular articles written by the New York Times recently, which discuss childhood obesity. The most recent discusses a research project focusing on uncovering most cost-effective ways to reduce childhood obesity: taxing sugary beverages, ending the tax write-off for advertising in children’s television programming, increasing physical activity in schools, and fostering healthier habits in preschool settings. The second article published a few days earlier discusses parental denial of weight issues in their children and how this denial is fueling the childhood obesity epidemic.
I would consider both of these articles informative and well-written, but severely lacking in a crucial topic central to childhood obesity discussions: the role of the big food industry. Understandably, news articles are not the forum for extensive scientific and theoretical discussions on the problem of childhood obesity. However, when discussing parental roles in childhood obesity and evaluating cost-effective measures to target obesity the failure to mention the food industry as a significant factor is misguided.
How is it possible that childhood obesity can be discussed without including even a brief introduction of the influence the food industry (not just the fast food industry). From advertising, market domination, political influences, and poor food quality, the food industry is just as much to blame as parents in denial. While it is all well and good to discuss these multi-faceted issues, I can’t help but point out the glaring hole that the New York Times left in these articles by not discussing big food. Frankly, it speaks volumes about the influence and stretch of the food industry.
Related to this post, the documentary Fed Up is a great resource on the food industry as it relates to children and obesity. I highly suggest giving it a gander.