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Failing Grade for Big Food, Big Gov

From eNewsletter 11/11/2019

DID YOU KNOW that artificial intelligence (AI) is taking over a human task once thought impossible? A new study from The Lancet found that AI appears to detect diseases from medical imaging with similar levels of accuracy as health professionals.

While it's important to note that AI did not substantially out-perform human diagnosis, deep learning AI is considered only in the "fetal" stage of development, so it may not take long. 


Bonnie and Steve: We say this way too often. Americans are sicker and fatter than they ever have been. Judging by federal investment in nutrition research, the government doesn't seem to care.

The federal government has devoted only a tiny fraction of its research dollars to nutrition, a level that has not kept pace with the worsening crisis of diet-related diseases.

The lack of federal investment has left plenty of room for consumer confusion. That's just the way Big Food wants it. Food industry-funded studies often fill the vacuum, but they are more about marketing than unbiased science. By funding most of the research, Big Food can greatly influence how Dietary Guidelines for Americans are structured.

Nutrition science at the NIH and USDA are under constant threat. The Trump administration has repeatedly proposed slashing the human nutrition budget in half. Congress has rebuffed these requests but kept funding flat.

As NIH, USDA and Congress let nutrition research languish, Americans are grappling with the very problems that reports predicted over 40 years ago.

Until we are able to focus on what is at the center of these diseases, which includes among other things, the entire farming and food production system, very little will change.

Don't Expect Help From Big Food

For some food companies, the hype surrounding healthier fare is lip service. Most know its customers order based on taste, not nutritional value or environmental impact. There's a difference between what people say and what they do.

While healthier snacks make up about 20% of the global snack market, it will never come close to the 80% of sales for indulgent snacks.

Many healthy foods Big Food invests in fail. Some companies have even reversed course away from healthier fare.

Campbell Soup Co. is trying again to revive its soup sales after abandoning an attempt to sell fresh foods, and the private-equity backers that took Hostess Brands Inc. public three years ago found new growth by expanding its decadent brands to new types of products like frozen, deep-fried Twinkies.

There is a very, very small group of consumers who will buy something that doesn't taste great because it conforms to their particular values. For most others it is about taste, which was perpetuated by Big Food. The industry discovered early on that sugar and fat-laden foods not only tasted good, were cheap to produce, but most importantly, were addicting.

The worst current example of Big Food misleading the public is the plant-based burger craze. They're giving the consumer great taste, but are duping them into believing that they are actually healthier. We know this is not true and they need to be called out on it.


There are no easy answers to solving this problem. It has been an uphill battle and always will be. However, there have been victories along the way. Whole Foods and the like would have never existed were it not for consumers demanding healthier fare.

In our opinion, the most effective ways to show Big Government and Big Food that change is necessary:

-Work in the trenches with one on one counseling like we do. Similar to grass roots campaigning, it takes one person at a time to create real change.

-Use our pocketbooks to purchase healthier fare. This is the only thing Big Food will respond to.

-While this is much more controversial and complex, taxing unhealthy foods is essential and has already shown to be effective in other countries. Just as smokers pay a premium to smoke cigarettes, the same should be done with unhealthy snacks, beverages, and processed food. Then, we can use the tax money to subsidize fruit and vegetable growers so they can be price competitive with government subsidized crops such as wheat, corn, soy, dairy, sugar, and rice.

The odds are stacked against us, and most do not even know it. Many Americans are unaware of Big Food's influence on farming, politics, food policy, and food science and marketing. Most Americans are unaware that Big Food has developed the American palate to crave sugar and fat.

Let's help make as many people aware of this so change can happen sooner than later.


Steve: We know that drinking too much creates a hangover. But what does alcohol do to our bodies to make us feel so awful...This article is reserved for NCI Well Connect Members. You can get this article by signing up here. You can get our free eNewsletter by signing up at the top of our website.


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