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Stan Dorn, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, a public policy research center in Washington, D.C., has stated succinctly that “some companies are making huge profits off obesity.”  There are people who wish to fight obesity by incorporating tactics used against the tobacco industry.  What ultimately proved to be effective in reducing tobacco use was to hold cigarette manufacturers accountable for harmful products.

Kelly Brownell, author of Food Fight, a book published in 2004 which criticizes a “toxic food environment” in American culture, has also this year co-authored a paper titled “The Perils of Ignoring History:  Big Tobacco Played Dirty and Millions Died.  How similar is Big Food?”  The comparison he makes between the tobacco industry and Big Food shows the same tactics being used to fight off criticism.   According to Brownell, “the common strategies include dismissing as ‘junk science’ peer-reviewed studies showing a link between their products and disease; paying scientists to produce pro-industry studies; sowing doubt in the public’s mind about the harm caused by their products; intensive marketing to children and adolescents; frequently trotting out  supposedly ‘safer’ products; denying the addictive nature of their products; and lobbying with massive resources to thwart regulatory action.”

One side will argue that consuming unhealthy food is a choice, and that most people are fully aware that eating food loaded with fat, sugar and salt is unhealthy.  That position was also used by the tobacco industry, which denied the addictive nature of tobacco.  A Scripps Research Study done in 2010 showed that “the same molecular mechanisms that drive people into drug addiction are behind the compulsion to overheat, pushing people into obesity.”  This study and others have had little effect on Big Food.  The annual revenues of the fast food industry have continued to rise, while the number of ads aimed at children have also increased.  The result, as we all know, is that the obesity rate among children and adults continues to rise.  A full 35% of American adults are obese, while obesity rates for children have doubled in the last 30 years and quadrupled in adolescents.

The costs of obesity to our society are great.  Kaiser Health News estimates that obesity accounts for $147 billion to $190 billion  in yearly expenditures, while the health costs of tobacco continue to drop and are now estimated at $96 billion annually.  The report states that “after decades of lawsuits, damning reports about industry practices, and stop-smoking campaigns, smoking rates have plummeted, from a high of 42% of adults in 1965…to just over 19% today.  Meanwhile, obesity has been soaring since the 1980’s…Currently, 45 million American adults are smokers, while 78 million adults and almost 13 million youngsters are counted as obese.”

The first fight against tobacco involved emphasis on personal responsibility and voluntary self-regulation.  It didn’t work.  Only when anti-tobacco advocates switched their emphasis from changing individual behavior to holding cigarette manufacturers accountable for harmful products, did Americans heed the message that their health was being compromised for profit.

Interestingly, while most of the lawsuits aimed at Big Food have failed in America, a Russian consumer protection agency has filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s, as was reported by the New York Times on July 26.  The suit calls for a ban on certain products.  The claim accuses “the restaurant chain of violating government nutritional and safety codes in a number of its burger and ice cream products.”  The case will be heard on August 13.  While a lawsuit in Russian against an American company is probably a political game, at least it focuses on the detrimental affects of eating Big Food.

The fight against tobacco took decades, and despite the fact that it isn’t eliminated, it was largely an effective battle.  As more studies will emerge concerning the dangers of Big Food to our health, and as the public becomes more aware of just how much fat, salt and sugar there is in these “foods”, I believe we can reduce our dependence on unhealthy food.

Recipe of the Week

Many people will  continue to justify eating fast food because they don’t have time to cook.  Unfortunately, this is true for most families, but the way to provide home-cooked food is to plan menus and create them on the weekend.  The following is not so much a recipe as a demonstration of a “kit” that is partly purchased and partly cooked, and one that will provide a couple of different meal options throughout the week.

Lamb Kabobs

2 pounds of lamb leg steak, trimmed of fat and cut into 1″ pieces

1/3 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

10 grindings of fresh pepper

Place the lamb pieces in a large container, coat with oil and salt and pepper

Marinate in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours.

Prepare a grill, put the lamb on spits and grill for three minutes per side.

Yogurt Sauce with Garlic, Cucumber and Mint

5 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cucumber, peeled and finely chopped

2 sprigs of fresh mint, chopped (optional)

1 1/2 cups non-fat plain yogurt

Mix all of the above.

I then purchased mixed greens, Greek olives, goat cheese, hummus and pita.  I now have ingredients for pita sandwiches with lamb, yogurt sauce, hummus and lettuce.  I also have ingredients for a Greek salad for another meal.  You can substitute feta for the goat cheese in the salad, and add any other vegetables you wish.

Originally posted to on Sat Aug 02, 2014 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It ought to be obvious (4+ / 0-)

    that processed foods are chemically rigged to taste better than their fresh, raw components in need of cooking.
    Since when did the entire country get so pressed for time that we can't chop veggies and make a salad?
    I don't buy the pressed for time argument.
    The processed food taste good.  People eat it because it tastes good, and they do not know it is sickening.
    I prefer "sickening" to merely "unhealthy" to describe fast food.

    •  "Chemically rigged"? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hmi, Sparhawk, CFAmick

      Humans like salt, fat, sugar and meat.

      Because for most of our history as a species, these things were rare and getting too much was far less of a problem than getting too little. We evolved to crave these things because getting them was more than worth the effort.

      I mean we used to have to endure bee stings to get honey, salt was so precious we got the word 'salary' from it and meat, even today in some places, for some at least, is a rarity.

      Now, fats, sugars and salt are cheap. And companies use those things to make tasty food. They are not free of resposability, but neither are people who stuff themselves with the stuff. But it isn't "chemically rigged", and a meal at a 3-star organic restaurant can be just as obesity-inducing as a burger at the local grease grill.

      As for the diarist's comparison of rich foods to tobacco, it us absurd. Smoking is an artificial habit. Eating is not.

      I ride the wild horse .

      by BelgianBastard on Sat Aug 02, 2014 at 06:51:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  producing all that beef (4+ / 0-)

    is also an environmental issue.

    If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. -George Washington

    by Tank Mountaine on Sat Aug 02, 2014 at 10:00:52 PM PDT

  •  If you've seen how much grease (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    viral, Sandino, ladybug53

    eight hamburger patties from the gilded arches creates, you'd lose your appetite.  I still eat it because, working there, a double hamburger still equals free protein on a limited budget, but it's still a crazy amount of fat burned off those 1/10 patties.

    By the way, if you want real eggs at the Arches, get round eggs like are on their muffins.  Not every Arches has this, but those that do use real eggs to make them, not just the carton egg stuff like in egg whites and scrambled eggs.  Folded eggs are just heated up and served as is.

    "You are not stupid. You are important. You mean something, and you're going to go out there and you're going to do some wonderful things." Justin Carmical

    by Anjana on Sat Aug 02, 2014 at 10:10:20 PM PDT

  •  In the old days, not having to worry (0+ / 0-)

    about having enough to eat was a  privilege. What Big Ag have done is find ways to produce more and more food that can be sold cheaply even with a healthy profit margin built in. The emphasis on salt/sugar/fats is based on what people want to buy, as another commenter noted the attraction is probably instinctive.

    Trying to compare unhealthy food (the definition has changed over time) to tobacco is not only wrong, but politically toxic. Food has enormous cultural significance, and the emphasis on organic/slow food by progressives has a lot to do with the public perception of progressives as elitist.

    "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

    by Alice in Florida on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 11:19:19 AM PDT

  •  People also don't know how to cook. (4+ / 0-)

    And by this, I mean the processes of cooking.

    I almost never get out a food processor, though I own a large one and a small one. I have a good knife set, and the knowledge of how to chop and dice and slice. A lot of people don't have that.  Today we had shrimp curry with spinach and mushrooms, jasmine rice, and fresh naan for lunch. Not difficult to prepare, but that's by my take.... Mix it up, rise it an hour, roll it out, and grill it. No big deal. I've been cooking and making bread and noodles and stocks from scratch since I was in elementary school.

    But not only do I have the skills, I have the flat cast-iron griddle, well-seasoned, to bake the naan on. I have the nice knife set. I have a stand mixer to knead the naan dough to save my arthritic hands. I have a good, well-seasoned bread board to work the dough on. These weren't cheap, but they'll last for years.

    Help me get my utilities on! I can't eat this elephant by myself.

    by Alexandra Lynch on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 12:06:24 PM PDT

  •  Fast food restaurants existed (3+ / 0-)

    long before the obesity epidemic.

    You cannot logically blame fast food for the obesity epidemic.

    But you can blame the culture of food consumption in our society.

    When I was a young boy I could not eat enough.  I would eat about anything put in front of me (except SALMON, which is not fit to eat in my book, turnips or any form of cooked greens excluding spinach).  I would clean my plate and go for more.  And I never was obese, no where close.  But I also exercised a LOT, being a youth growing up in the mountains of North Carolina and into hiking and motocross.  I also ate home-cooked meals and rarely McFood and NEVER microwave meals.

    Fast food is OK in moderation.  But nowadays it seems that it has become the standard for all meals.  Breakfast burritos, lunch "combos" and delivery pizza.  Nobody cooks anymore.  It is truly a fluke that so many cooking TV shows are as popular as they are.  Maybe folks dreaming of better food??

    O-ne-i-nis-to - Oh-no-mis-ta [Lakota]


    Howlin' at the World from the Left Side of the Planet

    by WolfmanSpike on Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 01:16:11 PM PDT

  •  Not the only justification. (0+ / 0-)

    "Many people will  continue to justify eating fast food because they don’t have time to cook"

    I'm looking at the recipe you've posted, and the 2lbs of lamb steaks alone are around $15. That's two meals from Chipotle or three from McD's. It's not just time.

    If someone has their weekends available to cook and can afford the base foodstuffs needed and knows how to cook and actually wants to do the work, then the solution of planning menus and preparing them on the weekend is feasible.

    Otherwise, they'll stop at McD's on the way from school to soccer practice.

    "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."

    by grape crush on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 10:34:49 AM PDT

  •  I make food for the whole week (0+ / 0-)

    Takes a few hours on the weekend and I usually rope my bf to help.

    This week's lunch/dinner menu:

    Spatchcock chicken x2 or korean style spicy pork
    Blanched romaine lettuce seasoned with olive oil, ssamjang and minced garlic

    Tip: on the broiler pan's base... spread a thin layer of ghee and generous bed of sliced onions... you get caramelized onions which are delicious and terrible for your heart at the same time. It's full of flavor so use sparingly.

    served over rice or wrap it in freshly washed romaine leaves.

    Breakfast for me is milk+protein powder. If I'm still hungry, I have some granola.

    Why hello there reality, how are you doing?

    by Future Gazer on Mon Aug 04, 2014 at 12:49:26 PM PDT

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