Food industry fires back at obesity book

The head of the Grocery Manufacturers Association took exception this week to a new book which portrays consumers as hapless victims preyed upon by food industry giants that peddle addictive products.

In “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us,” author Michael Moss paints an unflattering picture of food companies who pursue a win at all costs strategy by artfully manipulates salt, sugar and fat to addict and fatten consumer with disastrous results.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association understandably took exception to Moss’ characterization of the food industry.

“Obesity is a serious problem in the United States and globally, and Michael Moss’s work misrepresents the strong commitment America’s food and beverage companies have to providing consumers with the products, tools and information they need to achieve and maintain a healthy diet and active lifestyle,” said GMA president and CEO Pam Bailey.

She listed a number of industry actions regarding the introduction of product choices with reduce calories, fat, sodium and sugar, the adoption of advertising criteria and the introduction of new labeling systems.

“The root causes of obesity are well known,” Bailey said. “Too many calories consumed from any source, combined with a sedentary lifestyle are the main risk factors for obesity. As such, public policy proposals to ban, tax or restrict consumer access to certain foods or beverages will not solve the obesity problem.”

While the food industry has taken a number of high profile actions, Bailey contends personal responsibility has to play a role, with consumers needing to learn to balance calories consumed through food and beverages with an appropriate amount of physical activity.

“GMA and its member companies strongly support First Lady Michelle Obama’s goal of solving childhood obesity within a generation. If we are going to meet that goal, everyone – industry, government, parents, schools, communities and healthcare providers – must do their part. The food and beverage industry is proud of its successful track record and the role we play in helping to combat obesity both in the United States and around the world, and we look forward to continuing our ongoing commitment to help consumers live healthy and active lifestyles.”

According to promotional materials for the book, Moss is a Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter at The New York Times and his book documents the rise of the processed food industry and its link to the emerging obesity epidemic.

“Moss takes us inside the labs where food scientists use cutting-edge technology to calculate the ‘bliss point’ of sugary beverages or enhance the ‘mouthfeel’ of fat by manipulating its chemical structure,” according to promotional materials. “He unearths marketing campaigns designed—in a technique adapted from tobacco companies—to redirect concerns about the health risks of their products: Dial back on one ingredient, pump up the other two, and tout the new line as ‘fat-free’ or ‘low-salt.’”

According to the book, the process food industry would cease to exist without salt, sugar, and fat because consumers are addicted to those ingredients and so too are the companies that sell them.