Thank goodness for Mobama’s leadership

First lady Michelle Obama motions before speaking at a "Let's Move!" program for 400 children at the Eastside and Northside Elementary Schools in Clinton, Miss., Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. Obama and television chef Rachel Ray visited with the children and conducted a cooking contest between the schools chefs. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

First Lady Michelle Obama visits Mississippi to promote her Let’s Move health & wellness initiative. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

With Mississippi having hosted First Lady Michelle Obama this week, on her continued tour to raise awareness about health and fitness in America, it’s interesting that a new book is out, detailing the problems with the majority of food we are served.

“How Fast Food Hooks Us” shows how corporations figure out our ‘bliss spots,’ manipulate the USDA, and stymie anyone who opposes them.

We all have our issues with food.

I certainly do. After a doctor’s visit a couple of years ago, in which I learned my cholesterol levels were up, I went on on a tear, losing 50 pounds and going on an exercise regimen that led to running a couple of marathons and a few half marathons.

But it didnt take long to fall back into old habits. I gained the weight back. Fortunately, I have regained focus and am back to a reasonable place, even though I still have a few pounds left to lose.

But the key for me, as with most folks, is exercise and making sure I am eating good, nutritional foods, without having to starve my body.

That’s not easy.

According to “How Fast Food Hooks Us” the average American eats 33 pounds of cheese and 70 pounds of sugar annually and 8,500 milligrams of salt a day. Investigative journalist Michael Moss went inside the food industry to find out how these additives get into our food for his book, Salt Sugar Fat. From within his behind-the-scenes look at the biggest fast-food giants, we extracted the most fascinating bits.

Amazingly enough, it is one of the mega giants that has been quick to change, even if it is in the name of good business.

Wal-Mart is putting special labels on some store-brand products to help shoppers quickly spot healthier items. Millions of schoolchildren are helping themselves to vegetables from salad bars in their lunchrooms, while kids’ meals at Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants automatically come with a side of fruit or vegetables and a glass of low-fat milk.

The changes put in place by the food industry are in response to the campaign against childhood obesity that Mrs. Obama began waging three years ago.

Yet, in “How Fast Food Hooks Us”, some of Moss’s most incriminating revelations come from the chapter investigating the relationship between food industry giants and U.S. government agencies. He shames the Center for Nutrition Policy for having skewed guidelines that fail to mention the dangerous fat content in beef and cheese, and the USDA for funding marketing campaigns for the government to push support for the cattle and dairy industries. The conflict of interest of the USDA in dictating American nutrition while working in alliance with the industries producing unhealthful products is startling.

That seems to have been confirmed in an Associated Press story last week, stating the Food and Drug Administration has stalled its push to mandate labeling on the front of food packages, saying it is monitoring the industry’s own effort. A rule that would require calorie counts on menus has been delayed as the FDA tries to figure out whom to apply it to. Supermarkets, movie theaters and other retailers have been lobbying to be exempted.

The industry also appears to have warded off a move by the Federal Trade Commission to put in place guidelines for advertising junk food to kids. Directed by Congress, the guidelines would have discouraged the marketing of certain foods that didn’t meet government-devised nutritional requirements. The administration released draft guidelines in 2011 but didn’t follow up after the industry said they went too far and angry House Republicans summoned an agency official to Capitol Hill to defend them.

So, thank you Mrs. Obama for keeping the issue in front of all of us.

How can we eat good foods, unless we know the foods are buying are good for us.

 

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018

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