We have all heard the taunts delivered to people who are overweight. But is obesity solely the fault of the individual? Why would someone choose a lifestyle that is so problematic from an individual and societal standpoint? “Obesity claims more lives and drains more of the healthcare budget than smoking” (Veracity, 2005).
The food industry, specifically the sugar industry, is controlled by powerful conglomerates – whose priority is ALWAYS their bottom line. Certainly the individual must take some responsibility for the food that they choose to eat, but to say we make informed choices in what we buy at the grocery store is simply not true. Food labels are confusing and misleading, and food labelling laws that currently exist are toothless. Do most Canadians know, for instance, that they consume 110 grams or 26 teaspoons of sugar per day or 21% of their daily caloric intake in sugar? ( Statscan, 2011).
Drug dealers could learn a thing or two from sugar moguls. With the absence of strict labelling laws we are ‘slipped’ sugar in our food just like a first date is slipped a ‘roofie’. Just like we would have no idea what was in our ‘doctored’ drink so we have no real idea how much sugar is in our food. The amount of sugar is obfuscated by language, as there are so many different names for ‘sugar’. We are kept in the dark about the addictive potency and the dangerous consequences of sugar. We get more education about the dangers of ‘roofies’ than we do about sugar!
When we drink a soda, for instance, we need to know, in language we ALL understand, how much sugar there is in it. We also need to know that drinking a sugared soda will make us more thirsty. We should know that sweet drinks and sodas are major contributors in America’s sugar consumption and so our obesity epidemic.
In order to stem the tide of obesity, we must have more information about the food we are eating. WE MUST have more strict and clear labelling laws. In 2002, The Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI) petitioned the FDA(the American Food and Drug Administration) to require food manufacturers to clearly label the amount of added sugar. However, the petition failed and Jacobson, director of CSPI, attributes that to the powerful sugar lobby (Veracity,2005). If we are fighting a war on obesity, who is currently winning that war?
The lack of good information seems to be deliberate. Big Sugar barons fund the World Sugar Research Organization and The International Life Sciences Institute that have made claims that sugar, in moderate dosages, is good for you! The negative consequences of sugar are under reported or unstated. “These organizations were charged with paying off the Expert Consultation on Carbohydrates in Human Nutrition effectively botching the World Health Organization’s research on sugar and its health effects” (Veracity, 2005)
The sugar industry ‘gets away’ with these tactics by donating large amounts of money to political campaigns. For instance, we saw between 1997 and 1999, The Flo-Sun Sugar company in the United States made “21 donations ranging from $2500 to $25,000 to congressional campaign committees. That’s a total of $202,500 to Democrats and $147,500 to Republicans!” (Veracity, 2005).
Money and power can trump even science. While we are loosing the war on curbing obesity, someone is winning.
As consumers then, our responsibility is to educate ourselves. We certainly cannot rely on the food industry to keep us informed. We need to lobby for honest and clear labelling laws. We need to disseminate information on a grand scale about the true dangers of sugar. This is an important first step. Educate and legislate!
Readings Used in this Essay
Patel, Raj. “Abolish the Food Industry” in The Atlantic: Feb. 22, 2012. Found online at The Atlantic.com
Veracity, Dani. “the politics of sugar: why your government lies to you about this disease-promoting ingredient” in naturalnews.com. Originally published, July 21, 2005.