Former Food Executive Says Industry Must Do More to Fight Obesity

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In a WellWise.org interview, the author of the book, 'Stuffed,' stresses the urgent need for practical solutions, and a middle ground between the food industry and food advocates.

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This is making the business case, based on hard numbers, for marketing lower-calorie, better-for-you foods.

A former executive with Coca-Cola, General Mills and Cadbury-Schweppes, Hank Cardello, has since made it his personal mission to convince his former colleagues that not only is it possible to make healthy profits even while providing healthier foods to the consumer, but that it is essential for their future.

By providing and promoting alternatives to the foods that are making record numbers of Americans fat, Cardello says in an interview with WellWise.org, that companies can capitalize on the public’s growing awareness about health problems associated with sugary and fatty foods, and thereby ensure their own future profits. He also calls for the food industry and food advocates to find a middle ground by focusing on the problem instead of on being right.

Several years ago Cardello authored the popular "Stuffed: An Insider's Look at Who's (Really) Making America Fat." Now he’s involved with the first ever Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study that he says will demonstrate to companies how they can make better profits by selling better-for-you foods and drinks. He expects results to be available within months. “This is making the business case, based on hard numbers, for marketing lower-calorie, better-for-you foods,” he says.

Recent studies confirm that obesity rates are on a steady climb in America. Twelve states now have obesity rates above 30 percent. Four years ago, only one state had rates this high. Even more disturbing, 38 states now have obesity rates above 25 percent, whereas 20 years ago no state had a rate higher than 15 percent.

An extraordinary number of health problems are associated with obesity, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and stroke. Obesity is now estimated to cost the United States some $200 billion in health expenditures.

In the interview, Cardello explains how numerous national or local attempts to change consumer behavior by creating sweeping policies have failed. A more successful approach will be to offer companies incentives to create and market better foods, he says.

WellWise is a nonprofit website whose mission is to offer authoritative, science-based information on nutrients, dietary supplements and health strategies, and to provide a lively meeting place for consumers, health professionals, nutritionists and researchers. Regular WellWise bloggers include food scientists, investigative food reporters, doctors, therapists and more.

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James Townsend
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