Last year on our page, we told you about the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF). The Academy is listed as one of HWCF’s “associate members,” and corporate members include ConAgra, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, and Unilever.
Earlier this month, HWCF had a series of “presented by the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation” blogs on Huffington Post, including this one — titled “We’re Going Back to Counting Calories… And Here’s Why That’s a Good Thing” — by Hank Cardello, an “advisor to corporate executives on matters related to consumer wellness, solutions to obesity, and practical food policy.”
Here are some sentences that stood out to us from Mr. Cardello’s post, along with our thoughts:
- “Obesity is a supply problem: there are simply too many calories looking for too few mouths. Since the 1950s, the number of calories available for daily consumption per person has increased by a whopping 25 percent. Who is best equipped to deal with reducing this overabundance of calories? Certainly not the policymakers. Government programs to reduce consumption and educate consumers about healthy eating have been woefully ineffective.”
Our thoughts: Here is the tell-tale sign you are dealing with an industry front group — the attack on policy and regulations. Note how the author vaguely alludes to “government programs to reduce consumption” (such as?) and focuses on the ineffectiveness of educational programs, while conveniently avoiding policies that have worked. Also, referring to obesity as a “supply” problem is an overly simplistic and superficial explanation of a multi-faceted and complex issue.
- “Since nutritional labeling on packaged goods was introduced in the early 1990s, the rate of obesity has more than doubled from 14 percent to over one-third of the adult population.”
Our thoughts: Correlation is not causation. We have never come across any evidence — or even hypotheses, for that matter — that the implementation of nutritional labeling is in any way related to increased rates of obesity.
- “16 of the largest food and beverage companies (think PepsiCo, Nestle, Coca-Cola) have committed to reducing calories as their pledge to the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF). The companies did a number of things to reach this goal, including developing new products, using smaller portion sizes and changing product recipes. The result: Their success was not only counted in sales, but in reaching their goal of reducing 1.5 trillion calories from the marketplace. In fact, the HWCF member companies surpassed the goal reducing 6.4 trillion calories three years ahead of their commitment date.”
Our thoughts: This blog post sure is starting to read like a press release. Let’s touch on that 6.4 trillion calorie statistic the food industry continues to pat itself on the back over.
On a related note, public health advocate Nancy Huehnergarth has penned an excellent post for Civil Eats titled “Why the Food Industry’s 6 Trillion Calorie Cut Hasn’t Made a Dent.”
- “The industry was able to achieve huge cuts by reformulating existing heavily-processed fare like sweets and snacks, shelf-stable juices, carbonated soft drinks, fats, oils, sauces, condiments and baked goods. In other words, your chips may now have less fat; your breakfast cereal may have fewer grams of sugar; and your chocolate chip cookies may be a little smaller.
- “One would think that a reduction in sales of 78 calories per person every day would translate into some measurable improvements in the health of Americans–perhaps a slight downward trend in the overall obesity rate? Not exactly.”
- “Voluntary pledges have been the industry’s bread and butter in the fight against obesity and chronic disease. The HWCF has also voluntarily pledged not to target children with unhealthy food marketing, promised to remove high-calorie beverages from schools and recently pledged to reduce beverage calories per capita by 20 percent in a decade–a less than impressive promise.”
- Public health experts like NYU nutrition professor Marion Nestle see this as misleading. On her blog, Nestle wrote: ‘Soda sales are going to decline by that much anyway. Although the Alliance says the companies will do this through national initiatives to educate consumers about smaller portions, lower-calorie beverages, and water, and to focus these efforts in lower income communities, they really don’t have to do a thing. All they have to do is wait for these trends to continue.”
- “CDC data released in February 2014, showed a remarkable 43 percent drop in obesity rates among 2- to 5-year-olds from 2003 to 2012. This very young segment of the population has likely benefited from being the focus of targeted policy and program interventions including WIC nutritional improvements, promotion, and implementation of improved standards for day care food, beverage, and physical activity and, promotion of and an increase in breastfeeding, which is associated with lower childhood obesity rates.”
- “Despite this evidence, food and beverage giants continue to devote considerable funds and lobbying muscle toward killing or weakening important nutrition-related legislative policies and regulations including healthy school nutrition standards, front-of-package labeling, calorie labeling, a sugary drink warning label, nutrition standards for kid’s fast food meals, and an updated nutrition facts panel that includes added sugars.”