“Fed Up” is a new documentary from broadcast journalist Katie Couric, Oscar-winning producer Laurie David (“An Inconvenient Truth”) and director Stephanie Soechtig. According to the film’s official trailer on YouTube: “This is the movie the food industry doesn’t want you to see. FED UP blows the lid off everything we thought we knew about food and weight loss, revealing a 30-year campaign by the food industry, aided by the U.S. government, to mislead and confuse the American public, resulting in one of the largest health epidemics in history.”
The film, which opened on Friday, examines the epidemic of obesity, the soaring rate of people who have (or will someday soon have) Type 2 diabetes, the increase in portion sizes and the additives included in processed food. For example, more than 75% of the sodium Americans consume can be traced to processed and restaurant foods; only a small amount is added during cooking or at the dining room table. Of the 600,000 food items in the average American grocery store, 80% have been spiked with extra sugar. These additives make our bodies crave similar foods, which means we’re becoming chemically wired to want things that make us unhealthy.
“Sugar in excess is a toxin, unrelated to its calories. The dose determines the poison,” Dr. Robert Lustic, professor of pediatrics at UCSF wrote. “Like alcohol, a little sugar is fine, but a lot is not. And the food industry has put us way over our limit.”
What’s worse, many of the unnecessarily over-sugared and over-salted items eaten by American consumers aren’t even real food; they’ve been manufactured in labs at big agribusiness firms and processed food companies, and approved for sale by the U.S. government.
According to USA Today, the thing that’s made “Fed Up” so contentious is “its assertion that much of America’s weight problem is not the public’s fault. Instead, the film takes aim squarely at the snack food industry, which it accuses of getting consumers hooked on processed and fast foods with school tie-ins, deceptive ad campaigns and duplicitous health studies.”
“I think that one of the ways that manufacturers get us to buy ‘convenient’ foods by making us think it is too inconvenient to buy whole foods, or to put a little effort into what you are eating,” Couric told Rolling Stone. “…This is the first generation that will live a shorter life span. That’s an unconscionable legacy we are leaving to our children. We need to make some changes to our own lives, but also try to demand changes on a much bigger level.”
I’d never even heard of the film “Fed Up” until I read this story about the underhanded tactics of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the food industry’s lobby. Threatened by the movie’s premise of showing how Americans “are being brainwashed at an early age by the food industry, and the power of that lobby to prevent our legislators from making any meaningful changes,” the GMA created a website called FedUpFacts.com that looks eerily similar to the film’s official site. However, this stealth site contains “facts” that are bought and paid for by the food and beverage industry. The GMA even went so far as to buy Google ads for search terms related to the movie — including its title — that would lead consumers interested in learning more about “Fed Up” and their clients’ nefarious actions to FedUpFacts.com.
While underhanded and manipulative, this campaign is not exactly out of character. These lobbyists seem to thrive on keeping American consumers in the dark.
Earlier this week, Vermont became the first state in the U.S. to require the labeling of genetically-modified foods. More than 60 other countries already require such labels, but previous efforts to pass similar legislation in the states have been beaten down by the GMA and its wealthy clients.
Although the law did pass in Vermont, the food and agriculture industries, including the makers of genetically-modified corn, soybeans, canola and other crops widely used in processed and packaged foods, plan to sue to stop its implementation. The GMA has also joined forces with BIO, a trade group whose members include Monsanto Co., Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical Co., and other biotech seed companies, to back a proposed federal law that would nullify Vermont’s labeling law and any other mandatory labeling of GMOs in the U.S.
The GMA’s position is clearly noted on its website: “Consumers who prefer to avoid GM ingredients have the option to choose from an array of products already in the marketplace labeled ‘certified organic.’ The government therefore has no compelling interest in warning consumers about foods containing GM ingredients.”
That’s right. Consumers don’t actually need to know what’s in their food. They should just assume that anything not already labeled contains genetically-modified ingredients.
When big business (and their lobbyist minions) try that hard to bamboozle the public, my bullshit meter goes into the red. So should yours.