Column, 290 words

Shut Up and Eat Your Sugar

Manufacturers of processed and fast food for kids are throwing a fit over stronger industry standards.

Jim Hightower

OK, children, homework time.

Let’s see if we can handle this little lesson in logic. One, America has a rather huge child obesity problem. Two, major food corporations constantly pitch ads to children for such stuff as sugar-saturated breakfast cereals and fat-laden “Happy Meals.” So, how does fact No. 2 relate to fact No. 1? Yes, No. 2 is a cause of No. 1. It’s really not that hard to grasp, is it?

Not unless you’re a lobbyist for a food manufacturer. Last year, Congress directed four federal agencies to work together on new standards for commercials that food giants run on cartoon shows and other TV programs for children. This intervention was necessary, because the industry’s own voluntary program to push healthy choices for kids was, at best, loosey-goosey. For example, such sugar bombs as Kellogg’s Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes were nutritionally A-OK by industry standards–as was a candy named Yogos, the main ingredient of which is sugar.

Sugary-Foods-IndustrySo, the agencies came up with nutritional requirements that were at least strict enough to prevent the marketing of candy as a healthy food. Ah, progress! But–oh, mercy–the howl of pain from industry lobbyists was piercing. One shrieked that the new proposal “would virtually end all food advertising as it’s currently carried out to kids.”

Uh…no sir, not all food advertising, just ads for stuff like…well, Yogos.

However, the screams of the food giants–echoed by their congressional puppets–seem to have spooked the agencies. The final proposal has now been delayed, and regulators have retreated to “tweak” it. Note that the main ingredient in the word tweak is “weak.” To help fight for strong nutritional standards that advance our children’s health, contact the Center for Science in the Public Interest: www.cspinet.org.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.