Thursday evening New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Moss spoke to a near-capacity OHSU auditorium audience about the obesity epidemic in the US and the role of food in the development of that dangerous and costly trend. His new book on the subject (Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us) is the headline to this blog. Among many topics, Mr. Moss described the way in which new processed foods are created through a careful testing process to make them maximally tasty through the addition of sugar, fat and salt, the latter to add to the taste but also to mask the sometimes bad taste of the raw food that is the basis for the processed food item.
One dramatic proposal offered by Mr. Moss is that food companies that have added so much salt, sugar, and fat to foods should be treated much like the tobacco companies (for selling addictive products) in that they have created addictive food products (certain processed foods) and should be required to fund prevention programs and treatment for obese people, a major cost in US health care (for example the development of diabetes).
In the Q&A following his talk, Mr. Moss was asked what we could do to deal with the problems and he cited the addition of a maximum daily requirement for sugar should be added to labels (a task for the FDA) and that we should all look carefully at labels, an activity that can be empowering.
Oregon’s Public Health Officer Dr. Mel Kohn of the Oregon Health Authority led the Q&A. He pressed Mr. Moss on the role of government in public health, hinting that state public health agencies such as in Oregon play a major role in combating the rise in obesity and other public health problems.
After the talk, Mr. Moss signed copies of his book. Shown left is Mr. Moss signing a copy of his book for Bob Moore of Bob’s Red Mill in Milwaukie. Mr. Bob Moore is now leading his foundation that is focused on the improvement of nutrition in Oregon and the US through grants to OHSU and OSU, among others. His Mill was noted by a non-profit agency representative as a grocery where nutritious food options are plentiful.
Mr. Moss’ talk was sponsored by many organizations including the Oregon Health Authority and OHSU’s Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine.
Other events in Public Health Awareness week (that ends Sunday, April 7) can be found on the Oregon Health Authority’s website.