Food and Beverage Industry Ramps Up Lobbying Spending
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The food and beverage industry is a powerhouse in this country- it rakes in more than $1.5 trillion a year. And according to Grist, this industry has dramatically increased the money they’ve spent on lobbying since Barack Obama took office.
Reuters looked at the spending of 50 of the most powerful food and beverage lobbying groups. They found that these groups spent $175 million on lobbying efforts since Obama took office. The groups spent only $83 million on lobbying for the previous three years during the Bush Administration.
Why such a change? Well, Obama and his staff have worked hard to get us to eat healthier, in large part to combat the worsening obesity epidemic. As it stands now, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than one-third of American adults are obese, and another one-third are overweight.
And, the numbers might even be worse than that; recent research shows that the BMI scale most doctors use to classify as “overweight” or “obese” might be far off target, especially when it comes to women. According to a new study, up to 40% more Americans could be overweight or obese than previously thought. Yikes.
The Obama Administration has done a lot to get us to live a healthier life. Michelle Obama created the “Let’s Move” campaign, the administration wrote a Task Force on Obesity report, they tried to tack on an extra tax on soda, and they’ve tried to limit the amount of junk food and sugary soda kids have access to during school lunches. There was also a federal effort last year to rewrite tougher nutritional standards on foods marketed to children.
Obviously, all these campaigns to get us to eat healthy have been seen as a threat to the food and beverage industry, which largely sells packaged foods and sugary sodas. And their efforts, according to Grist, have largely paid off. So far, the industry has thwarted any new law that would force them to change their marketing tactics or raise their standards. Everything passed by Congress has been “voluntary,” more like a suggestion if you will.
What does all this mean for us? Well, it means that it’s unlikely the government is going to be able to do anything truly effective when it comes to raising the standards in the food industry, not when the food and beverage industry has pockets that deep. Like with most things worth doing, we have to do it ourselves.
How? Here are some ideas.
- Watch less TV. TV watching is strongly linked with obesity. Plus, if you don’t see all the ads for sugary snacks and fast food restaurants, you’ll be less tempted to eat those foods.
- Shop the perimeter of your grocery store. This means you shop the outside of the store, where the fruits, veggies, meat, fish, and dairy sections are. Avoid as much as possible the middle aisles; this is where the packaged food and sweets are.
- Eat local food whenever possible. Locally grown foods often contain more nutrients because they’re grown without pesticides, and they’re grown fresh.
- Join a CSA. CSAs, or Community Supported Agriculture, means you essentially buy a “share” in a farm. Either weekly or bi-monthly, you get a box full of the fruits and vegetables that farm grows. Joining a CSA essentially forces you to eat more fruits and vegetables. Visit LocalHarvest.org to find a CSA in your area.
Although we can’t depend on the government to reduce the amount of marketing we see for unhealthy foods, and we can’t really depend on them to make any major changes in the quality of foods sold in fast food restaurants or in packages, we can take steps ourselves to eat healthier and more ethically.