Letters: April-June 2003
Politics of overconsumption
The value of the otherwise useful editorial by Joanne Ikeda and Patricia Crawford in the January-March 2003 California Agriculture is undermined by its failure to dig into the institutional structures in our society that contribute to overeating and overweight. While properly identifying the problem and its two main causes — overconsumption and underexercising—the article avoids a discussion of the socio-economic and political factors contributing to overeating. The authors briefly cite the issue of serving size, but they don't get at the underlying dynamic, namely the strenuous activities of food corporations through advertising, public relations, and political activity to pack more food into us individually and collectively. These same corporations consistently resist regulation and lobby for increased deregulation.
William H. Friedland
Research Professor and Professor Emeritus UC Santa Cruz
Pat Crawford and Joanne Ikeda (co-authors of the editorial “Californians face weight and health care crisis,” California Agriculture 57(1):2) respond:
We regret that we had insufficient space in our editorial to fully discuss the pathogenesis of obesity. A comprehensive examination of the factors associated with energy intake must include institutional influences, one of which is the food industry, the corporations that grow, process and sell foods. The success of this industry depends on consumers consuming more. National food intake surveys show that Americans today are eating significantly more than they did in 1980. For example, an average woman today consumes nearly twice the calories needed (3800 kcal/day) while leading an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. It is not known to what degree the increase in intake is a result of changing varieties of foods, larger portion sizes, increased availability of foods, or aggressive food marketing and advertising campaigns. Dr. Friedland is correct that the lobbying of the food industry for less regulation can be at odds with the consumer's best interests. At the Center for Weight and Health, we are keenly interested in all factors influencing weight, including those of the family, the community and finally the larger society with its norms, laws, regulations and mass media influences.