When people think about the American food industry a variety of thoughts and words come into mind. Some of these thoughts include the words healthy, wealthy, supply, “junk food”, frozen food, soda and so on but one thing that not many think about is corruption. In fact, most Americans do not know that the American food industry is one of the most corrupt entities of business in the world. Americans do not tie corruption with the food industry due to the fact that this corruption is not public and often occurs under the surface.
According to Mitchell Johnson from the Huffington Post, food corporations unlike other corrupt entities, such as FIFA and SwissAir, are often not caught in major scandals which allows their corruption to go unnoticed. Food companies, such as Nabisco, Pepsi-Cola, and The Schwan Food Company are some of the most corrupt food corporations in the United States. These three companies often pay off politicians and health organizations in order to sell their product or approve a new cheaper product.
Due to this, documentaries such as Food Inc. 2008) and Fed Up (2014) have recently brought attention to this topic. In Food Inc. (2008), director Robert Kenner exposes the nation’s food industry, showing the highly corrupt mechanized industry that has been hidden from American consumers with the consent of government agencies, such as the USDA and FDA. The documentary also shows how the nation’s food supply is controlled by corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health and safety. Director Stephanie Soechtig uses a different approach to her documentary Fed Up (2014).
Soechtig examines America’s obesity epidemic and how the food industry plays a major role in aggravating it. The documentary shows personal accounts of individuals currently obese throughout the United States and studies how the food industry pays off politicians and health organizations to increase the amount of products they sell. In fact, in Fed Up (2014) a report that the W. H. O (World Health Organization) had was released and stopped by U. S government, in order to keep the food industry, in this case the sugar branch, content.
In 2004, the W. H. O, released a report recommending that no more than 10% of calories would come from sugar intake. Shortly after Senators Larry Craig, a Republican and John Breaux, a Democrat, asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, to stop the report. Soon, the Bush administration stated the W. H. O’s report was “too tough” on the food industry. The Bush administration told the W. H. O that if the document was published, the United States would withhold $406 million that the country was going to pay them, as a contribution to the organization (NCBI).
The government extorted the W. H. O and the sugar recommendation was deleted, from the all reports up to this day. According to Dr. Robert Lustig, after this another report was passed by sugar lobbyists stating that 25% of one’s daily diet should come from sugar, two and a half times the W. H. O’s recommendation. Along with reports, laws have been changed to benefit food corporations rather than the American public. Two years after Barack Obama became President, his wife Michelle Obama launched a national campaign called Let’s Move.
The purpose of this campaign was to decrease the obesity rate in this country by targeting the food industry and bringing more awareness to this epidemic. Soon after the launch, the campaign became more centralized towards childhood obesity (Let’s Move). Although the original purpose was to target the food industry to change its ways, it was changed to promote exercise and healthy eating. This changed occurred due to protesting done by the food industry. Along with the start of the Let’s Move campaign, President Obama passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.
This act authorized the USDA to come up with new standards for the federally funded school lunch program eliminating pizza from school. When this act was passed the Schwan Food Company, a $3 billion private company, which accounts for 70% of the pizza market in U. S school lunches, protested. The company could not have pizza eliminated from schools, so their senator in Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, wrote a letter to the Department of Agriculture to protect frozen pizza’s in school. The letter stated that tomato paste contributed to dietary fiber and should not be eliminated.
The effect of was to count a slice of pizza as a vegetable thus allowing pizza’s to remain in school lunches (Fed Up). Although documentaries such as Fed Up (2014) and Food Inc. (2008) touch upon the corruption that occurs within the food industry, what’s rarely talked about is the effect of said corruption on lower class Americans. A significant number of lower class Americans suffer from health related problems such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes because of this corruption in comparison to middle class Americans.
Food industry corruption affects the lower class the most because food corporations control food lunches, where products are shipped, how much of a certain product is shipped, politicians that enact laws, health organizations, and resources needed for lower income citizens. Lower class citizens living in rural areas are more likely to fall into an obesity cycle because they do not have the same resources that people living in urban areas do. It is easier for them to find unhealthy food rather than healthy food due to the fact that food dispensers lose money by sending their products to rural areas.
According to LiveScience, differences in diets and isolation play a huge part in why rural areas in the United States experience such a high rate of obesity. In fact, most of the kids under the age of 12 in areas like Mississippi were found to be ten times larger than teenagers in northern areas (LiveScience). Many Americans in rural areas eat foods high in fat, this is called “Country cooking. ” Country cooking is when food’s are deep fried rather than baked or steamed. Many times these fried foods are coated in breadcrumbs and even chips such as Lays and Cheetos.
This leads to severe health problems such as diabetes and early onset heart disease. It was found that children as young as ten were at a greater risk to experience a heart attack than people over the age of 50 throughout the country. According to the Rural Health Information Hub, rural healthcare facilities are less likely to have nutritionists, dietitians, or weight management experts available. Rural areas may lack exercise facilities and infrastructure to encourage physical activity. Access to healthy and affordable food is also limited in many rural communities.
Although these problems have been exposed, lobbyist and other food supporter groups disagree with their findings. Sugar lobbyists state that sugar is actually not addictive nor unhealthy but rather a key part of the body’s survival. Their argument is that without sugar the human body is unable to function properly and that foods high in sugar, such as candy and sweets, are healthy and a necessary part of a notorious meal. They also state that without these foods Diabetic Hypoglycemia can develop at a quicker rate. According to
Roberto Ferdman, research stating that sugar is unhealthy is wrong and a way for the weight loss industry to sell larger quantities of diet pills and programs such as Weight Watchers. Journalist Sabrina Bachai brings up the point that the true cause of the obesity epidemic in the United States is due to recent advancements in technology, which have a created an inactive society. Bachai argues that the obesity rate in America does not concern the calories consumed, but rather the lack of exercise that many people are now getting.
She goes as far as stating that food is not to blame because people are not forced to eat unhealthy food but rather they chose to each unhealthy food. The real “criminals” are companies like Microsoft and Apple that create products that cause people to stay inside rather than go outdoors. She also states that people have the option of low-fat and low-sugar foods and therefore it is not the responsibility of food corporations to make sure Americans are healthy. There are many factors that have caused the obesity rate in the United States.
From the food industry’s corruption, to politicians that turn an eye at the obesity epidemic, to lobbyists and even technology. Due to these factors there is no one to blame on why obesity in America has increased. In the end the United States must try and change this increasing epidemic or the nation will become scum to diseases. People may be warned and guided but the government can not control what people consume, it is up to the people to choose what’s right for them.