Katie Couric

FED UP


 There is no hype or hard sell here about the food we eat; only reasoned arguments based on scientific data.  There are as well heartbreaking stories showing the agony overweight kids go through when they are obese.  Eight-year-olds weighing over 200 pounds; a 400-pound teenager—you see them try to stick to diets with good food and exercise, but habits established at a very young age are seemingly impossible to change, especially when the parents are obese as well.  By all joining together, one family succeeds in their efforts; one girl looks like she has failed completely, and one young man is admitted to the hospital for gastric surgery.  But as the film emphasizes, the food industry should take responsibility for its products.  Unfortunately for us, a number of co-conspirators are responsible for our plight today, which is likely to lead to an unprecedented number of citizens who are obese and who have diabetes.  These numbers have shot up in the last 30 years.  Why?

 It’s almost a “let me count the ways” kind of situation that involves the government, the public schools, the food industry, and other special interest groups, and marketing—let alone parents.  Even health insurance companies get into the act by buying fast food companies to hedge their profit bets.

 It was in 1977 that Senator George McGovern—after several years of study—first proposed dietary guidelines for Americans after it was determined that American diets had become so unhealthy they were increasing the likelihood of heart disease, cancer, obesity, and stroke.  Diets had begun to represent as big a public health threat as smoking with their high concentration of fat, sugar, and salt.  The food industry reacted with a storm, especially the meat and egg producers.  They, together with dairy, sugar, and salt producers fought hard to weaken and alter what was recommended and managed to take the Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs’ tasks away from the Senate and place them with the Agricultural Committee!  

 That seems to be the story ever since, to the point that 80% of the food products in the grocery contain some type of sugar; families are encouraged to buy processed foods; and marketing has gotten into the picture.  Although attempts have been made to ban marketing foods specifically to children, the food industry has succeeded every time in defeating regulation by playing the “meddling government” card.

 Fed Up backs up all their statements about the relationships between nutrition and health, and the incidence of disease factors with hard data and clinical observations.  Although the food industry is ever ready with spurious arguments meant to protect their profits, it seems clear that Americans are in serious trouble.

 Katie Couric, who ably hosts the film, notes that when she first started pursuing a report on American nutrition, she thought it would be something small, without much impact.  Obviously, when she began to realize the breadth and depth of the issue, she wanted to get the information out to the American people.

 I was surprised that several issues were not really addressed, such as parental responsibility and behavioral management efforts for people trying to lose weight.  But those are a bit off-topic, since the aim of the documentary is to highlight the actions of special interest groups and the U.S. government’s and schools’ complicity.  However, they could have addressed the problem of (in the words of Judi Dench’s character is Philomena) the huge portions we are served in restaurants.  This appears to me another instance of profit-making over health on the part of restauranteurs.

 Stephanie Soechtig has directed a very thoughtful, well presented, and objective critique of the American diet, the conditions that have made it what it is today, and the dire consequences that are ensuing as a result.  This is an important film!

Grade:  A