Katie Couric has co-produced a new documentary called Fed Up. The film focuses on the federal government and food industry and the parts they play in U.S. obesity rates. Couric also serves as narrator for the film. Though the documentary has been met with some criticism, overall the message is one that needs to be sent: The powers that be may not be on the public’s side.
More often than not, obesity is blamed upon the individual. If they would only eat better and exercise they would lose the extra weight. However, there is a fair argument to be made for complicity on the part of an industry that preys upon the nation’s sugar addiction and a government that relies on outdated practices and policies.
The most vulnerable victims in this scenario are, of course, the children. Particularly the children of parents who have not educated themselves about the dangers lying in wait at the grocery store. However, sometimes the process of education is misleading. Products are touted as healthy when, in fact, they are not.
Recently, a pre-school teacher in Key West, Florida began questioning the food that is brought from home by the two year olds she is charged with caring for five days a week. One little boy gets a cereal bar, which, as she put it is, “sugary cereal stuck together with sugary frosting” and a juice barrel. The sugar high and crash this boy experiences are not unlike the other kids in the room who get similar breakfasts. Of the 14 children in her room, only three seem to have food conscientious parents. For lunch, the teacher counts eight Lunchables, three cans of either spaghetti or raviolis and three healthful meals in Tupperware.
The above mentioned juice barrel is an eight ounce drink. Labeled as having 75% less sugar and only 10 calories, the beverage raised some red flags for the pre-school teacher. The information provided on their website certainly makes it look like a healthy product that any parent should be proud to give their children. However, nowhere can the real ingredients be found. It took going to another website to find out that this particular juice drink has high fructose corn syrup, sodium benzoate, sucralose and red #40. All of these ingredients have proven to be problematic for various reasons. The website, Fooducate, grades products based on their ingredients. Little Hug Fruit Barrels scored a big, fat D.
This is just one example of what the film Fed Up and Katie Couric are talking about. As could be expected, activists in the field of nutrition are applauding the documentary while experts in the food industry claim that the film is oversimplifying a problem that is complex. While pointing out that the food industry has made great efforts to cut over six trillion calories since 2007, they fail to admit that the way they did that, by using lab-made sweeteners, is turning out to be just as harmful, if not more so.
Couric has said that she has been doing stories about obesity for 30 years. The more she has learned the more she realized that there is very little understanding about what exactly the roots of the problem are. In the film, some of the causes tackled are: a lack of awareness on the part of the public, misleading marketing on the part of the corporations and subsidies for low-grade corn syrup and deplorable school lunch programs.
Like those unhealthy juice barrels, that were recently on sale, 20 bottles for $7, much of the worst offerings are cheap. This factor brings poverty into the picture. The consumer is almost forced into buying these products because it is all they can afford. When the average expenditure on weekly groceries is $159 and a family of two gets $224/ month in food stamps, the choices are drastically limited.
When the entire scenario is examined, there seems to be a nefarious plot afoot. In an attempt to get to the bottom of that plot, Katie Couric and Fed Up are hoping to wake America up. Like the campaign to educate about cigarette smoking, this food campaign can make a huge difference in the eating habits of the nation.
by Stacy Lamy