Friday, 15 June 2012

The fat of the land

I've just watched the first episode of a new BBC series presented by Jacques Peretti, The Men Who Made Us Fat, about the roots of obesity.

In the early 1970's, US Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz - a son of the soil from Indiana once memorably described as a "mental midget" - encouraged American farmers to expand with the slogan "Get big or get out."  The surplus maize they produced was then turned into a new high-fructose sweetener for the food industry called corn syrup.  As it was cheaper and sweeter than sugar, it was soon being added to fizzy drinks, bread and other foodstuffs.  Then in the late 1970's, the US food industry responded to Congressional criticism by introducing supposedly healthy low fat products in which the fat content was replaced with sugar.

Like the tobacco industry for decades, the food industry lobbyists Peretti met claimed that there was no evidence of a link between their products and obesity and it was simply a matter of personal reponsibilty - eating less, exercising more - rather than their marketing food that is both unhealthy and addictive. I was left wondering if these people actually believe what they are paid to say.

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