Scary Owl

Fear of Industry Shaping Food Policy

Having an enemy to fear is a great tool for moving people into action. It can help them put aside all that pesky critical thinking, which gets in the way when you know what you want. And so it is that fears of the food industry shape many food policy debates.

It used to be that meat producers stood in the way of advocates for reducing the fat in American diets. Clearly, they were the bad guys in that scenario.

Now that low-fat diets are passé, the beverage and sugar industries are far more useful villains. Journalists caught Coke red-handed promoting energy balance last summer. Their reports presented that situation as proof of a conspiracy to deflect concerns about the toxicity of sugar.

This week, we have a sensational analysis from researchers at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF). It provides a scary conspiracy theory stretching back to the 1950s about the source of the push for low-fat diets. According to that theory, the sugar industry duped us all. The industry cooked up the flawed science behind the push for low-fat dietary advice.

Meat producers are cheering this turn of events. Beef industry advocate Amanda Radke weaves the UCSF story together with a New York Times commentary on the miracle of low-carb diets for diabetes. She thus builds her case that beef might offer a “simple cure” for our growing problem with diabetes. She says:

The voices singing the praises of a diet rich in meat and low in sugars are getting louder. I, for one, am excited to be a part of the conversation and look forward to the return of a more traditional, wholesome diet that focuses on real food and ditches the junk.

Presto chango! Beef is transformed from villain to hero.

Perhaps a better approach would be to lean on scientific rigor and critical thinking. Villains and conspiracy theories are lousy guides for making sound policy.

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Click here for Radke’s essay. Click here for more from NPR on those rascals in the food industry.

Scary Owl, photograph © Stuart Richards / flickr

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September 15, 2016

5 Responses to “Fear of Industry Shaping Food Policy”

  1. September 15, 2016 at 6:14 am, James said:

    Kudos for unusually good insights today – too easy to pimp a headline instead of develop a richer understanding of what fundamentally is a complex and not thoroughly understood issue.

    • September 15, 2016 at 8:35 am, Ted said:

      Thanks, James.

  2. September 15, 2016 at 9:47 am, David Brown said:

    “Perhaps a better approach would be to lean on scientific rigor and critical thinking. Villains and conspiracy theories are lousy guides for making sound policy.”

    Right. The problem is not wickedness. The problem is ignorance and arrogance. In his 1990 book “Lipid Nutrition:Understanding fats and oils in health and disease” author Randy Wysong, DVM wrote, It is a common attitude among scientists, however, that their state of knowledge has a high degree of certainty and may even be ‘the Truth.” Scientists before them thought likewise; so will those after them. The facts will continue to change, redefining understanding; it is only the presumption of complete knowledge, human egocentric arrogance, which remains constant.”

    I would have said, “The facts will continue to accumulate…” In truth, a fact is, by definition, unchangeable. It is opinion that changes as new information comes to light.

    The fact is, the cause of the obesity epidemic remains a mystery. Why? Because scientists (thought leaders) pay too much attention to trendy thinking rather than the scientific evidence itself. Google – S. L. Malhotra BMJ and S. L. Malhotra AJCN to access journal articles published in 1967 by a scientist who knew what he was about. Note what he says about saturates fats, added sugars, and vegetable oils.

  3. September 15, 2016 at 9:50 am, Allen Browne said:

    But villains and conspiracy theories are more fun.

    • September 15, 2016 at 3:42 pm, Ted said:

      The entertainment economy!