A carrot goes out to Katie Couric for offering a hard-hitting look at the food industry, including the use of antibiotics in livestock production, genetically modified organisms, high fructose corn syrup, growth hormones in dairy cows and more. Her latest webcast at @katiecouric featured Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, and Dr. David Kessler, a Harvard-trained doctor, lawyer, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and author of The End of Overeating.
I expected to hear Schlosser criticize highly processed food, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear Kessler, a former FDA man, send such a powerful critique of the use of antibiotics in healthy livestock. Kessler hints that the FDA is perhaps looking closely at changing the guidance relating to the use of drugs in a nontherapeutic context -- that is, the way they currently get used on some/most/all factory farms. "The practice has gone on way too long without being in public view," Kessler says. Good news for our industry? Check out the clip.
The show grazed through many other food issues. If you've worked in the natural foods industry for awhile, you can live in a bubble and sometimes forget that this stuff is news to mainstream consumers. Look at it as an opportunity to grow your customer base.
Kessler says that changing Americans eating habits will be a long, uphill climb -- longer and perhaps harder than for, say, tobacco, according to Kessler, who worked on federal tobacco regulations in the 1990s. Kessler advocated for patience and for focus on two main food issues: processed food laden with fat, sugar and salt and the use of antibiotics in healthy livestock. Kessler went so far as to say that our food choices actually affect our brain chemistry, compelling us to overeat. "We're wired to focus on the most salient stimuli in our environment," Kessler says. "What's the most socially acceptable? It's food. It's the fat, sugar and salt. They capture our brain circuits." Which is perhaps why Schlosser says we need to begin regulating food advertising targeting children, which programs children early on to eat unhealthy food for life.