Quantcast

New Report Offers Policy Solutions for a Nation that Can’t Afford Fast Food’s Abuses

Corporate Accountability International

On the heels of a new study in the Journal of Health Economics, which finds that the U.S. spends more than $190 billion a year on medical costs associated with obesity, Corporate Accountability International and Dr. Nicholas Freudenberg of The City University of New York have released a report that will serve as a tool to addressing the rising epidemic of diet-related disease.

The report, Slowing Down Fast Food: A policy guide for healthier kids and families, documents ways in which city and county policymakers can address the toll that diet-related disease is taking on their municipalities and on their communities’ health. It offers specific solutions to curb a primary contributor to the problem—the overconsumption of fast food and the ubiquitous marketing of fast food to children.

“Parents and policymakers have long felt at a disadvantage to counter the ubiquity of junk food and its marketing,” said Dr. Freudenberg. “This guide will empower families and communities to create healthier food environments for current and future generations." Slowing Down Fast Food focuses on four local policy approaches: school policy, “healthy” zoning, curbing kid-focused marketing and redirecting subsidies to healthier businesses.

As case studies in the report demonstrate, dedicated grassroots initiatives can overcome the food industry’s staunch opposition and build the political will sufficient for the passage of strong public health policies. For example, in San Francisco, the groundbreaking Healthy Meals Incentive Ordinance set basic nutritional standards for kids’ meals that are accompanied by toy giveaways. It was the power of grassroots initiatives involving parents, health professionals and community leaders that helped secure the passage of this ordinance.

“What we can take from the city’s action is that all cities and towns could pursue and institute like-minded policies,” said San Francisco City Supervisor Eric Mar, the sponsor of the measure. “While no single community or organization can match the political and economic might of the fast food industry, we can make change on the community level that effectively challenges the fast food industry’s negative impact on public health.”

Such policies have helped provoke critical changes across the food industry at large. While McDonald’s and its trade association attempted to block the ordinance, ultimately the burger giant and its competitors altered their practices internationally. For example, shortly after the San Francisco ordinance passed, Jack in the Box, the nation’s fifth largest burger chain, pulled the toy giveaways from its kids’ meals.

National media coverage of the San Francisco ordinance also helped foster public discourse and a deeper understanding of the harmful impact of marketing fast food to children. A growing number of studies have found that ending junk food marketing directed at kids could spare the health of millions of children. In June, the American Academy of Pediatrics even urged a ban on junk food advertising to children as part of a new research review published in the Pediatrics journal.

The report also identifies the obstacles to the passage of policies addressing fast food, namely industry opposition, interference, cooption and avoidance of regulation. It documents how fast food corporations use their political and financial clout to advance their interests, even when their products or practices jeopardize health. While this type of pervasive corporate interference has translated into inaction in Congress, local policy solutions have proven an effective means of countering special interests and protecting public health.

“Corporate influence may be drowning out the will of the people in our nation’s capital right now, but it cannot be allowed to remain this way,” said Kelle Louaillier, executive director of Corporate Accountability International. “Change needs to and can start at the local level, and the policies in this report are a critical place to start.”

The report and its companion Action Guide offer specific, practical guidance for putting policy concepts into motion, offering additional resources from a wide range of organizations engaged in protecting our health from the abuses of fast food corporations.

For more information, click here.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Electric towers during golden hour. Pixabay / Pexels

An international group of scientists released a report today detailing how the fossil fuel industry actively campaigned to sow doubt about the climate crisis and what steps need to be taken to undo the damage, as the Los Angeles Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Justin Trudeau delivers remarks during an election rally in Markham, Ontario, Canada, on Sept. 15. Creative Touch Imaging Ltd. / NurPhoto via Getty Images

By Chloe Farand for Climate Home News

Canadians are voting on Monday in an election observers say will define the country's climate future.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Activists Greta Thunberg (2ndL), Iris Duquesne(C), and Alexandria Villaseñor (3rd R) attend a press conference where 16 children present their official human rights complaint on the climate crisis to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child at the UNICEF Building on Sept. 23 in NYC. KENA BETANCUR / AFP / Getty Images

By Jessica Taft

Fifteen kids from a dozen countries, including Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, recently brought a formal complaint to the United Nations. They're arguing that climate change violates children's rights as guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a global agreement.

Read More Show Less
Cleanup costs for abandoned oil and gas wells once the producers have moved on could fall heavily on the public.
Susan Vineyard / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Justin Mikulka

Increasingly, U.S. shale firms appear unable to pay back investors for the money borrowed to fuel the last decade of the fracking boom. In a similar vein, those companies also seem poised to stiff the public on cleanup costs for abandoned oil and gas wells once the producers have moved on.

Read More Show Less
Blue tarps given out by FEMA cover several roofs two years after Hurricane Maria affected the island in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sept. 18. RICARDO ARDUENGO / AFP / Getty Images

Top officials at the Department of Housing and Urban Development confirmed to lawmakers last week that they knowingly — and illegally — stalled hurricane aid to Puerto Rico.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Actress Jane Fonda (C) and actor Sam Waterston (L) participate in a protest in front of the U.S. Capitol during a "Fire Drill Fridays" climate change protest and rally on Capitol Hill, Oct. 18. Mark Wilson / Getty Images News

It appears Jane Fonda is good for her word. The actress and political activist said she would hold demonstrations on Capitol Hill every Friday through January to demand action on the climate crisis. Sure enough, Fonda was arrested for demonstrating a second Friday in a row Oct. 18, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Only this time, her Grace and Frankie co-star Sam Waterston joined her.

Read More Show Less
Visitors look at the Aletsch glacier above Bettmeralp, in the Swiss Alps, on Oct. 1. The mighty Aletsch — the largest glacier in the Alps — could completely disappear by the end of this century if nothing is done to rein in climate change, a study showed on Sept. 12. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP via Getty Images

Switzerland's two Green parties made historic gains in the country's parliamentary elections Sunday, according to projections based on preliminary results reported by The New York Times.

Read More Show Less
A mural in Richwood, West Virginia, a once booming Appalachia coal town, honors the community's history. Jeff Greenberg / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

By Jeff Turrentine

The coal industry is dying. But we can't allow the communities that have been dependent on coal to die along with it.

Read More Show Less