In an unprecedented one-two punch, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and the American Obesity Association (AOA) simultaneously launched an all-out war against obesity in America. In their line of fire: restaurants.
“Obesity is epidemic,” said the editors of the influential journal, who devoted an entire issue to this “major medical problem.” At the top of JAMA’s list of obesity-causing factors: “[T]he availability of more food… the growth of the fast-food industry, the increased numbers and marketing of snack food… along with a custom of socializing with food and drink.”
Declaring obesity “a ticking time bomb,” the AOA convened a high-profile “fat summit” in Washington shortly before the JAMA findings hit the airwaves and newsstands.
Days after JAMA’s opening salvo, most major newspapers ran editorials supporting the fight against fat. As the Los Angeles Times said, “There’s no mystery why it’s happening. We’re eating more, especially high-fat fast food.”
The Fat Summit: A Nanny’s Call to Arms
While JAMA reported over 300,000 persons per year dying from obesity, the news media also widely reported obesity’s so-called social costs (or the secondhand effect of being overweight) in amounts varying from $61 to $100 billion – adding even more fat to the fire.
What’s happening now is a multi-pronged campaign by media-savvy activists, government officials and an enormous medical/health care industry to stigmatize certain popular foods… to literally de-normalize the consumption of fat. This hasn’t happened overnight. And it is not going away any time soon.
The recent “fat summit” hosted by the AOA brings this point home. After breakfast with Sarah Ferguson, diet diva and Duchess of York, The AOA called for new “fat taxes” to fund anti-obesity education programs run by AOA members and federal agencies, just as antismoking activists use new tobacco taxes to perpetuate their own agendas and jobs. AOA vice president Judith Stern declared: “While we have this two-day meeting, 1,800 people will be dead from problems related to obesity. This is a national emergency.” U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher in his keynote address admonished: “Obesity is a major public health problem in this country and one that deserves much more attention than it receives.” The obvious message to restaurant operators: Some part of your R&D/menu development agenda is being developed for you by people not on your payroll.
Deploying the Tobacco Battle Plan
In declaring war against fat, JAMA points to the recent campaign against tobacco as the best way to address overweight Americans:
“The time has come to develop a national comprehensive strategy… analogous to those already in place for tobacco use.” Earlier, at the eighth International Congress on Obesity, Dr. Philip James warned, “This is a pandemic, probably one of the top five public health problems in the world. Scientists are already beginning to wonder whether it will be worse than smoking.”
Nearly two years ago, Yale professor Kelly Brownell had a vision: “I recommend that we develop a more militant attitude about the toxic food environment, like we have about tobacco… [smoking] became so serious that society overlooked the intrusion on individual rights for the greater social good.”
Today JAMA states, “The decline in tobacco use…reflects a broad social strategy to reduce exposure. Prevention of tobacco use includes health warnings on cigarette packages, creation of tobacco-free spaces in restaurants… and taxes that make cigarettes expensive.”
In the 28 months since the first announcement of the “twinkie tax,” the pump has been primed for JAMA’s formula to be adapted to high-fat food control. Pretty frightening, considering it took 30 years to de-normalize tobacco.