Saturday, June 17, 2006

'Nutrient Profiling' To Nab Food Terrorists?

This British-based Telegraph story about an undertaking by the UK government to virtually deter certain food manufacturers from advertising in any public forum has all the good intentions but I believe it is the wrong way to go about lowering obesity rates.

In 2004, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) issued a White Paper (sort of like a Congressional bill in the U.S. that addresses a problem and offers a proposed legislative solution) that stated certain actions would be taken against any company that produces what they consider junk food that seems to target children if they could not regulate themselves by the year 2007.

Because that deadline is now only about six months away, the UK government is springing into action to put a ban on junk food advertising on television before 9pm, as well as restictions on ads appearing on the Internet, computer games, movie theaters, food packaging and even at school-sponsored events (which coincides with this recent move by a UK government official to stop serving "rubbish" in British schools).

Of course, they're saying this measure is not being "forced" on the food industry (YET!), but they add that voluntary measures need to be put into place since childhood obesity has hit about a third of British children. In fact, close to one in five are clincally obese.

Why are these proposals always picking on the food companies, hmmm? It seems to me they are merely providing a product that a certain segment of the population WANTS and is buying. Why should anyone who is eating healthy and/or the parent of a child raising them to eat healthy worried about what these companies are making? If you don't want their products, then DON'T BUY THEM! The last time I checked, there is no requirement to buy Twinkies, Ho-Ho's, and Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey Ice Cream! So what's the big deal if they want to spend their marketing dollars to peddle their junk?

What kind of foods will the FSA going after? It looks like the usual food ingredient culprits are named as the great evils in this story -- salt, fat, and sugar. While salt is not a problem for most people (despite what the American Medical Association says about it!) and fat is absolutely necessary for optimal health (just stay away from the trans-fats), sugar consumption is certainly a problem especially among children.

So how is the FSA going to identify companies that offer these obesity-causing food products? They say it will be by "nutrient profiling," of course! Yep, you heard me right! These so-called food terrorist companies (or at least that's how they're being treated by the government in the UK!) are going to be profiled for their "offending products" they have on the market. It's their idea of getting tough on childhood obesity.

Whoa nelly! Now wait just a cotton pickin' minute (my mom always said that when I was a child) before we go off taking such drastic action against these food companies. While I don't like a lot of the products they may be offering and targeting to kids, that doesn't give any government entity the right to tell them how to run their business.

We have unfortunately put the focus on the wrong entity here. Don't just point the finger at these food companies offering these products, but rather to these parents who are supposed to be raising their children to eat right. Nevertheless, it looks like a lot of them are allowing their children to eat this garbage (to illustrate this point, you absolutely MUST read what Regina Wilshire wrote at her "Weight Of The Evidence" blog this week about a typical menu for one teenaged girl in New York City that was recently published -- IT WAS SHOCKING!).

I know governments like to appear to act tough on certain issues to make themselves look like they actually care about people's health. But these extreme actions against food companies in the UK and the United States are nothing more than window-dressing to the REAL problem that exists.

If they REALLY cared about issues such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc., then they would stop protecting the industries that cause these things to happen and they would start telling the public the truth about what they can do to better their health and weight. Until that happens, these attempts to manipulate hand-selected food companies from running their business the way they see fit so they can turn a profit are just hypocritical.


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