Government Goes Soft on Childhood Obesity Efforts

Staff Writer
Washington consistently loses the battle against the childhood obesity epidemic

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Michelle Obama and Sam Kass judge a childhood obesity-fighting initiative with Top Chef contestants.

Despite national efforts from activists like Michelle Obama, food industry lobbyists consistently win at the policymaking level. Just this past year, Congress buried a plan proposed by federal agencies to reduce sugar, salt, and fat in food marketed to children, and every state or city that proposed a "soda tax" got turned down when it came time to vote. What's really going on?

Reuters investigated lobbying records and reached out to industry experts for their thoughts on the matter, and the results are quite interesting. The records show that food industry lobbyists have doubled their spending over the past three years, just with their efforts in Washington alone. In the public eye they seem to be proposing progressive strategies to help in the war against childhood obesity, but on Capitol Hill they're using their power to shut down relevant legislature.

The piece cites a quote by Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) who said, "I'm upset with the White House, they went wobbly in the knees. When it comes to kids' health, they shouldn't go wobbly in the knees." However, representatives for the White House, such as Sam Kass, chef and senior policy adviser on food initiatives, have consistently defended the actions taken by many food companies. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will hold a conference called "Weight of the Nation" in Washington May 7 to 9. The conference will launch an HBO series (called Weight of the Nation) and focus on research conducted by the Institute of Medicine on national rates of illnesses and diseases related to childhood obesity.