Here’s another inconvenient truth. Our food is killing us. And that’s because of something even more poisonous, the corruption of our political system through diversion of corporate money to politicians through campaign contributions and lobbying.
Laurie David, producer of the Oscar-winning Al Gore documentary about climate change, is back with “Fed Up” (the poster charmingly shows M&M’s labeled FU), co-produced by Katie Couric. The message of the movie is that it isn’t a lack of self-discipline and exercise that is making us the most obese generation in history. It is what we are eating. The bigger message is about why we are eating what we are eating. It is because we have outsourced public policy decisions about health and nutrition to corporations that don’t mind making our bottoms fat as long as it makes their bottom lines fatter.
For the first time ever, obesity presents a greater threat to human health than hunger. And for the first time ever children are facing obesity. This is in part because budget cuts in the Reagan years led schools to shut down their cafeteria kitchens and turn over the school lunchrooms to fast food operators, piling high-fat, high-sugar processed food onto children’s trays. How much high fat and how much sugar? What are the health effects of processed food? We don’t really know because corporations spend a lot of money to thwart government regulations and academic research that would give us that information. In one shocking segment of the film, we learn that a US cabinet official traveled to a global conference to threaten the cutting off of hundreds of millions of dollars in US funding if the portions of a report on the detrimental health impacts of sugar (putting it in almost the same category as tobacco) were not removed. That doesn’t make it less true, of course. It just makes it less known. The comparisons to the tobacco companies are not unwarranted.
The documentary is less effective when it follows several of kids and their families as they struggle with diets and self-loathing. But it is devastating when it documents the pernicious effect of corporate lobbying in thwarting government attempts to make healthier choices — or even better information — available. Think I’m exaggerating? See how they’re responding to the movie. Hint: the answer is not a candid conversation with a commitment to rigorous scientific examination of the health effects of sugar, fat, and processed food.
Parents should know that there is brief bad language, smoking, and references to the dire effects of poor food choices.
Family discussion: What would you advise the families in this film? What surprised you the most? What will you change about the way you eat?
If you like this, try: “Super Size Me,” “Food Fight,” “The Price of Sugar,” and “Food, Inc.” And try some healthier recipes!