Fed Up With Food Producers

David: Teamed with Katie Couric on film.
National Journal
Mike Magner
Add to Briefcase
Mike Magner
May 7, 2014, 5:45 p.m.

Junk food is today’s to­bacco and should be vil­i­fied for killing our chil­dren, says film­maker Laurie Dav­id about her new movie open­ing on Fri­day, Fed Up.

Dav­id, pro­du­cer of the 2006 doc­u­ment­ary An In­con­veni­ent Truth that rock­eted Al Gore to glob­al-warm­ing fame and a No­bel Peace Prize, says this pro­ject hits much closer to home — right on your kit­chen table.

“If you eat, you have to see this film,” she said from New York in a phone in­ter­view.

Nar­rated by cop­ro­du­cer Katie Cour­ic, Fed Up takes a hard look at the growth of “low fat” and “diet” choices in su­per­mar­kets and res­taur­ants that turn out to be not so healthy after all, un­less you con­sider an ex­cess of sug­ar in your diet to be a good thing.

In­dustry re­ac­tion to the film has been muted by lim­ited pre­screen­ings, but after it hits theat­ers this week­end, it could well ig­nite a heated de­bate about Amer­ica’s eat­ing habits. Fed Up will be show­ing in Wash­ing­ton at the Land­mark E Street Cinema.

After the U.S. gov­ern­ment is­sued its first-ever di­et­ary guidelines in 1977 and touched off a fit­ness craze, food com­pan­ies re­spon­ded by cut­ting the fat out of everything from soups to soft drinks and then mar­ket­ing the new products as health­i­er al­tern­at­ives. Un­for­tu­nately, re­mov­ing fat of­ten makes food taste aw­ful, so to make it more pal­at­able, the in­dustry poured in the sug­ar — tons and tons of it. The film notes that about 80 per­cent of the 600,000 items in gro­cery stores today have ad­ded sug­ar.

Re­lent­less mar­ket­ing, es­pe­cially aimed at chil­dren, has fueled the fast-food/junk-food boom, al­though the in­dustry vig­or­ously in­sists it is simply giv­ing Amer­ic­ans what they want. “Ron­ald Mc­Don­ald nev­er sells to chil­dren. He in­forms and in­spires through ma­gic and fun,” says a Mc­Don­ald’s ex­ec­ut­ive in one seg­ment of Fed Up.

The res­ult, ac­cord­ing to the film, has been a doub­ling of the na­tion’s sug­ar in­take and a cor­res­pond­ing rise in the obesity rate, with enorm­ous and costly con­sequences. In­cid­ents of type 2 dia­betes in ad­oles­cents were un­heard of in 1980; in 2010, there were 57,638 cases na­tion­wide. Doc­tors in­ter­viewed in Fed Up say that at the rate we’re go­ing, a third of Amer­ic­ans will have dia­betes by 2050.

“Health care costs are go­ing to bury the coun­try,” Dav­id said.

Former Pres­id­ent Clin­ton was in­ter­viewed for the film, and his com­ments are woven to­geth­er with al­leg­a­tions that the food in­dustry is mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for par­ents who want their chil­dren to eat healthy — in­clud­ing, in some cases, by tak­ing over a vast num­ber of con­tracts to provide school lunches.

“Amer­ica is still in­suf­fi­ciently alert to the dam­age we are do­ing with too much sug­ar in­take,” Clin­ton says at one point. “We could cure 80 per­cent of the prob­lem if we went back to schools cook­ing their own food,” he says at an­oth­er.

Michelle Obama has made healthy eat­ing a key part of her “Let’s Move” cam­paign, but the film says that her mes­sage falls short. The very name of the cam­paign sug­gests that the prob­lem is lack of ex­er­cise, not the food sup­ply, and Obama her­self has made it clear that she is “not try­ing to de­mon­ize any in­dustry.”

Dav­id ar­gues that a little de­mon­iz­a­tion is ex­actly what is needed. A video clip in Fed Up shows Fred Flint­stone and Barney Rubble smoking ci­gar­ettes in an ad for Win­ston in the days be­fore to­bacco ad­vert­ising was banned from tele­vi­sion. Dav­id says that if more people un­der­stood that sug­ary foods can harm kids’ health, they would start to de­mand bet­ter from the in­dustry.

“I would ar­gue for reg­u­lat­ing ad­vert­ising to chil­dren,” Dav­id said. “The Coke cup in front of Jen­nifer Lopez sends a mes­sage that it’s OK to drink as much Coke as you want.”

Dav­id hopes that Fed Up will have a great­er im­pact on Amer­ica’s eat­ing habits than An In­con­veni­ent Truth has had on the de­bate over glob­al warm­ing. “With cli­mate change, en­tire coun­tries have to do something,” she said. “With this is­sue, there’s so much you can do your­self.”

“I think when they be­come in­formed, people will de­mand bet­ter food. We can make fresh food again in schools and save money,” she said.

Dav­id, who di­vorced Sein­feld cop­ro­du­cer Larry Dav­id in 2007, said that be­fore she star­ted work on Fed Up three years ago, she had an “Aha mo­ment” in her own kit­chen.

“I cooked a meal for my teen­age daugh­ters — and both of them were talk­ing to me,” she said. “We were all talk­ing to each oth­er! It’s ac­tu­ally fun. It can be joy­ful.”

Dav­id also has a new book, called The Fam­ily Cooks, with 100 “fast and easy” re­cipes for pre­par­ing healthy meals. The ar­gu­ment that people don’t have time to cook any more, she said, is simply not true.

In fact, she calls it “a mar­ket­ing tac­tic.”

What We're Following See More »
MORE DISAPPROVE OF COUNTRY’S DIRECTION
Trump Approval Rating Steady
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

According to a new CNN poll, "37% of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling the presidency, 57% disapprove—virtually identical to his marks in late September. But the percentage who say things in the country are going well has fallen from 53% in August to 46% now."

Source:
Doesn’t Express Confidence in Marino
Trump to Declare Opioid Emergency Next Week
11 hours ago
THE LATEST

After initially promising it in August, "President Trump said Monday that he will declare a national emergency next week to address the opioid epidemic." When asked, he also "declined to express confidence in Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), his nominee for drug czar, in the wake of revelations that the lawmaker helped steer legislation making it harder to act against giant drug companies."

Source:
IN LIGHT OF 60 MINUTES REVELATIONS
Manchin Asks Trump to Drop Marino’s Nomination for Drug Czar
20 hours ago
THE LATEST
WOULD OVERTURN MARINO LEGISLATION ON DRUG DISTRIBUTORS
McCaskill Will Introduce Bill in Response to “60 Minutes” Scoop
20 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In the wake of Sunday's blockbuster 60 Minutes/Washington Post report on opioid regulation and enforcement, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has introduced legislation that "would repeal a 2016 law that hampered the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to regulate opioid distributors it suspects of misconduct." In a statement, McCaskill said: “Media reports indicate that this law has significantly affected the government’s ability to crack down on opioid distributors that are failing to meet their obligations and endangering our communities."

Source:
EVACUATION DRILL STARTS NEXT MONDAY
U.S. Military to Practice Evacuating Americans in S. Korea
21 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The United States military said on Monday that it would practice evacuating noncombatant Americans out of South Korea in the event of war and other emergencies, as the two allies began a joint naval exercise amid heightened tensions with North Korea. The evacuation drill, known as Courageous Channel, is scheduled from next Monday through Friday and is aimed at preparing American 'service members and their families to respond to a wide range of crisis management events such as noncombatant evacuation and natural or man-made disasters,' the United States military said in a statement."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login