Proposal 3: The Role of the Food Industry

For my third proposal, I will discuss the role of business in aiding the fight against childhood obesity. I focused primarily on the involvement of the food industry, and the role they are taking in this epidemic. I came across this article in OlsonPR, a site reporting on agriculture in modern society, discussing the food industry’s initiatives in fighting this battle. The article is titled, “Childhood Obesity – Food Industry Steps Up”. The article discusses food industry solutions, while simultaneously avoiding the least amount of harm to the industry and jobs. The article was broken up into 5 sections, each section states the involved group and their personal initiatives.

The first section discusses the New Minnesota Coalition Focuses on Obesity Initiative. The Minnesota food industry is forming a coalition to share and publicize their ongoing efforts to combat obesity. The group is being organized by Joan Archer and so far includes 20 major players in the food, beverage, gro­cery and restaurant business. The Minnesota Agri-Growth Council is a member, too. The next section titled Industry Obesity Initiatives notes that the beverage industry has been working on taking full calorie bever­ages out of schools since 2006. A new report shows there has been an 88 percent decrease in total calories contained in all beverages shipped to schools. Full-calorie soft drinks have been removed from schools and replaced with a range of lower-calorie, nutritious, smaller portion choices. There has been a shift to waters, sports drinks, diet sodas, milk, teas and 100 percent juices. The third section discusses Product Reformulations, in where food companies have made positive changes to their food manufacturing. The Grocery Manufactur­ers Association reports that in recent years companies have reduced calories, sugar, fat and sodium in more than 10,000 products. They have also enhanced the nutritional profile of many products with the addition of whole grains, fiber or other nutrients and created the informative and convenient 100-calorie pack. The fourth section summarizes the efforts of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation. Launched this past fall, the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF) is a part­nership between retailers, non-profit organi­zations, food and beverage manufacturers and trade associations aimed at helping to reduce obesity, especially childhood obesity, by 2015. The last section titled Restaurants Increase Healthy Options discusses the actions restaurants have taken to supply nutritious food options.

I found this source on a google search and was impressed with its detail. The source gives positive recognition to the food industry as opposed to other sources that I came across that addressed the negative role of the food industry towards childhood obesity. Such negative sources are listed below:

“Who is to Blame for the U.S. Obesity Epidemic?”

“The Big Debate: Are Food Ads to Blame for Childhood Obesity?”

These sources do present clear and convincing arguments against the food industry, however each source has a clear bias against the companies discussed. When debating the role of the food industry in my paper, I will make sure to look at both the positive and negative role of the food industry to avoid a biased argument.

I pursued further research on the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation discussed in the OlsonPR article. It’s a first-of-its kind coalition that brings together more than 200 retailers, food and beverage manufacturers, restaurants, sporting goods and insurance companies, trade associations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and professional sports organizations. The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF) promotes ways to help people achieve a healthy weight through energy balance–calories in and calories out. It focuses its efforts on two critical areas—families and schools. Current members include but are not limited to:

  • Campbell’s
  • ConAgra Foods
  • General Mills
  • George Foreman
  • Kellogg’s
  • Mars
  • Coca-Cola

The foundation illustrates tangible evidence of the food industry’s efforts to solve the childhood obesity epidemic. The foundation’s two main efforts, families and schools, are the two critical areas that I personally feel have the most influential impact. I will make sure to use the foundation’s website and the initiatives that they have taken when evaluating my own recommendations.


5 responses to “Proposal 3: The Role of the Food Industry

  1. Interesting find. Best I cna tell, she is a PR/communications person writing her own blog (with one collaborator). Looks like she wants to sell her PR chops to the food and agriculture industries. Does she maintain her own perspective such that she is not simply selling the appearance of truth to the highest bidder? I couldn’t tell from a brief scan.

    Nonetheless, I think it captures for you a more “business” perspective from someone who has an economic stake in lowering obesity.

  2. A link on her blog captures the basic outlines of the push and pull here. This article discusses what the famous Rachel Carson might have thought of the fight over GMO labeling.. In a nutshell,l we see two branches of environmentalism. One embraces technology for achievable goals (but may become co-opted by business interests) the other eschews technology for a broader vision of rebalancing human-nature interactions (but may reject science in the process).

  3. Interesting. I still think it is had for the beverage industry to honestly advocate for good choices for kids in school. As a taxpayer, I would prefer that they are offered clean water from the water systems WHICH WE ALREADY pay for and a very limited range of other choices- milk, soy milk, some vedge-fruit juices. Replacing Coke with Diet Coke is a joke.

    Ultimately, they can try hard, but they are trying to change a business model- taking taxes for school lunch to pay themselves for products that should never be in school in the first place.

    Giving them credit for removing ‘full calorie” beverages from schools is like congratulating a murderer with a knife for removing the blade form his victim.

    Full calories is laughable. And brilliant in a sick way.

  4. If the food makers have reduced calories and fats in 10,000 products, why is obesity still going up?

    If I have three products, I can reduce the sugar in the light one (x10,000) and still have two very sugary products. They did not say that the 10,000 products SOLD better or that they took unhealthy products off the shelves.

    Just be cautious about what the food industry says. At the end of the day, doesn’t fat fatten the bottom line?

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