Connecticut's publicity-loving Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has struck again. This time, the nation's food companies are in his sights.
According to the New York Times, Blumenthal is investigating the Smart Choices labeling campaign that "promotes products like Froot Loops and mayonnaise as nutritionally smart choices." He has sent letters requesting information to Kellogg's Co. (K), PepsiCo Inc. (PEP) and General Mills Inc. (GIS) about what he considers overly simplistic nutritional language.
In an interview with DailyFinance, Blumenthal denied that his office was trying to tell people what to eat. He also pointed out that it is appropriate for his office to look into the issue,
"Each of the states -- all 50 of them -- have laws against deceptive or misleading advertising," he said.
Company executives say they are cooperating with Blumenthal. It looks like he is going to be a tough man to win over.
"These so-called Smart Choices seem nutritionally suspect -- and the label potentially misleading," Blumenthal said in a press release. "The Smart Choices label adorns sugar-laden cereals appealing to children, but not many healthier breakfast choices. Our investigation asks what objective scientific standards, research or factual evidence
justify labeling such products as 'smart.' "
Blumenthal raises some valid points but this type of reasoning seems to abdicate personal responsibility for the food you eat and the liquids you drink. This concerns me not just as an American, but as a fat person. I weigh about 250 pounds, far from an ideal weight for someone who stands 5 foot 7 inches. My morbid obesity is the product of a sedentary lifestyle, poor portion control and an obsession with baked goods. It is not the fault of the food industry.
I have no one but myself to blame for the shape I am in, which last l checked was a Bartlett pear. No one told me to gorge myself on fatty, salty treats. Sure, I watched the many food commercials, but the choice to buy and eat those products was mine and mine alone. No amount of government mothering -- or my actual mother -- could persuade me to eat right and exercise.
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That's why I fear "food police" programs like Blumenthal's are doomed to failure. They will encourage the already fit to maintain their food vigilance, which is a good thing. But many fat people either ignore food labels or do not bother reading them at all. Programs like these also fail to stress that the problem lies with the eater.
Sadly, there are millions like me. About 26.4 percent of men and 24.8 percent of women are obese, according to recent government data cited by The Obesity Society. We fat people need to take responsibility for ourselves and undertake the long, difficult process of eating right and exercising. Although I have sworn for years that I would start to lose weight after New Year's, I swear on a box of Krispy Kremes that I mean it this time.
I am taking the first step toward healthy living. As of today, I vow to the readers of DailyFinance that I will give up my lunchtime brownie, which I buy from the neighborhood bakery. It may be a small step but it's one that did not require any help from the "food police."