Food activists serve three very important roles. They create public awareness about an important societal issue like obesity; they change attitudes and buying behavior; and ideally, as a result, they spotlight the next best revenue opportunity for industries that meet these new needs. However, a point comes when activism stops being constructive and becomes counterproductive hyperactivism. With respect to obesity, we’ve reached that point.
The problem is that instead of laser focusing on solving the biggest issue related to food consumption, obesity, hyperactivists bundle a host of food-related problems together and remain unsatisfied if all of them are not solved their way. So instead of zeroing in on obesity, which is a caloric matter, they throw their distaste for “Big Food” company practices into the mix: processed foods; the use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms); Bisphenol A (BPA) in bottled water containers; and excess levels of salt, sugar, and fat. Activists’ lack of focus promises only to inflame their war against the industry and wreak havoc with more constructive interaction between the public health community and the food industry.
But the food industry has been voluntarily cutting calories by more than 400% of the goal they set for 2010-2012. That is a very surprising success rate. Especially one that is voluntarily set.
In May 2010, 16 of the nation's biggest food and beverage companies, from Coca-Cola Co to Kraft Foods Group, pledged to remove 1 trillion calories from the U.S. marketplace by 2012 and 1.5 trillion by 2015, compared with a 2007 baseline. In fact, as of 2012 they sold 6.4 trillion fewer calories, found an analysis by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC).
"Reports like this, and the fact that they exceeded their commitment by four-fold, really shows that you can make progress in giving American families more healthy options," said Larry Soler, president of the Partnership for a Healthier America, a non-profit chaired by first lady Michelle Obama. The group was formed in 2010 to work with the private sector on anti-obesity strategies.
When politics gets into the anti-obesity crowd, like any other organization, I guess common sense goes out the window.