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How to get Fat Without Really Trying

On December 8, 2003 ABC News broadcast a TV News special entitled, "How to Get Fat Without Really Trying". The show involved the growing volume of Americans that are obese, and why as a nation, America has become this way. The hour long special was hosted by Peter Jennings, ABC's top news anchor. The show revealed some startling information that gave understanding of an issue that was identified as the largest health problem facing Americans.

The story procedes to note several disturbing facts:

* As reported by the federal government, Nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight and almost one out of three Americans are obese.
* The usual American child sees 10,000 food advertisements per year on tv.
* Children spend more of their own cash on food than everything else, even more than on CDs or movies or clothes or toys.
* This past year there was over 2,800 new candies, desserts, ice creams and snacks available on the market, but only 230 new vegetable or fruit products.

The direction of the story is to discuss that although eating habits are a lifestyle choice, that choice may perhaps be swayed by the food industry and the US government. The story noted, "Some say that personal health and well being can be a matter of personal responsibility. Though the processed food industry and also the government know very well what is going on and they're making a bad situation worse." Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest commented in regards to the degree of advertising of unhealthy food, "We're besieged. Wherever we go, we're prompted to eat junk food."

The story noted how the issue is Americans are opting for foods with more sweeteners and more calories, drinking more sodas, consuming more candy, and snacking non-stop. The representatives from the food industry appearing on the program claimed that personal responsibility is the reason for Americans being obese as a society. In contradiction to that view, Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition food studies and public health at New York University noted, "I don't believe that one could speak about giving the general public exactly what the public wants without discussing the $33 billion per year that the food industry spends to try to promote that sort of want."

The story spent a great deal of time on the problem of promoting junk food to children. Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest said, "The concern is that the majority of the foods which have been marketed to youngsters are unhealthy foods and the kids are subjected to so many messages about junk food that the cultural norm around food has changed. So that children are convinced they should be getting candy and cookies and chips and soda and these other junkie foods at all times." The story also took aim at the US government for huge subsidies of only one component of the food industry.

The story noted that while in the Depression of the 1930s, the government began subsidizing farmers to conserve them from financial ruin, though the money never stopped. This year, the U.S. government will put roughly $20 billion into agriculture, the majority of it going directly to the farmers. However, nearly all of this is given to products such as corn and soybeans which can be used to produce oils and fats, the foods government says we need to eat least. The report noted that these foods got about 20 times more subsidies than health food like vegetables and fruit. Professor Marion Nestle, noted that the huge government subsidies result in a price reduction that then drives the purchasing habits of the public. "So what these subsidies do is lower the price of the ingredients which go in processed foods, particularly high-calorie processed foods, and they make those foods cheaper."

The story noted that in several other countries, advertising of junk food to children is illegal. However, it was reported in the story that attempts previously to control food advertising in the US met with strong political opposition and defeat.

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