Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Save Our Kids from the Tobacco of the 21st Century: Big Sugar … by gimleteye

The White House yesterday changed course and allowed Michelle Obama to come out swinging against Big Sugar's resistance to the "Let's Move" campaign she has been leading. In particular, she attacked the Republican Congress that is fighting efforts to reform school nutritional guidelines that would provide healthier diets and combat the terrible costs of childhood illnesses linked to excess consumption of sugar.

The shift in public attitudes against sugar menaces the same industrial forces that dominate Florida politics.

In the NY Times, Mark Bittman wrote recently, "The status quo isn’t preferable in the lack of regulation of harmful foods, like sugar-sweetened beverages. Many smart, energetic people have been trying to find ways into this for years. A soda tax seems the best bet to cut consumption (and keep more kids from starting to slug soda in the first place), but no political entity — no city, state or federal government — has been able to overcome the industry’s ability to counter campaign."

The White House, of course, approved the First Lady's popular initiative against childhood inactivity and poor eating habits. The "Let's Move" campaign contributes to her wide popularity. She is perceived as speaking truth to an epidemic that has grave consequences to families and public health; a human side to the bitter struggle on health care. That said, the White House -- up to this point -- objected to any direct attacks by the First Lady on the politics of Big Sugar.

Apparently, that's changed.

"We are in a public health crisis largely brought about by the consumption of sugar and hyper processed carbs," Bittman wrote.  "It’s fine to scream “don’t eat as many of them,” but that message can’t possibly match the power of the billions of dollars spent annually by an industry ($400 million a year on marketing soda to teens alone) encouraging us to consume more… Soda, as I’ve said before, is the cigarette of the 21st century; 50 years from now all of this will seem obvious."

For 50 years, the power of Big Sugar in Florida has been obvious. The industry, run by a few billionaires, is the state's shadow government. Both Republican and Democratic state legislators genuflect at the altar of Big Sugar.

Only voters can change the Big Sugar's domination. It is time to tie the two together: sugar and its corrosive influence on democracy and the environment.

Michelle Obama has the platform, now. Just do it.

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