Drinking the Kool-Aid in Food Policy

Unwavering convictions may be necessary to achieve big changes. And big changes seem necessary to reverse the health impact of obesity. But could drinking the Kool-Aid in food policy lead us to press forward with strategies that just don’t work?

Two days reviewing the global experience of the world’s best experts in public health and obesity has us wondering about this question. The International Association for the Study of Obesity and the International Obesity Task Force assembled an exceptional program.

The program presented a mix of pragmatic successes and dogmatic frustrations. A consistent theme was the tension between those with a desire to contain and constrain the food industry and those who want some constructive engagement. Repeatedly, we heard of policy initiatives that were killed by food industry opposition.

Tobacco — a lousy model for the food industry — nonetheless surfaced repeatedly as proof that industry engagement is futile. A forced choice between engaging the food industry and confronting it may well be false, but it dominates the thinking of many food policy advocates.

Perhaps we need a bit of both confrontation and engagement. The food industry is not going away and real solutions will be implemented through it. But clearly the industry is not yet feeling motivated to change.

Click here to read more in the New York Times and click here to read more in the Christian Science Monitor.

Kool-Aid, photograph © a4gpa / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.