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Give us a break--with Oreos, please

May 2, 2005
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Joyce Fassl
Here we go again. Just when we learned that obesity kills nearly half a million people a year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) changed that number to 112,000. Some people are up in arms about the CDC miscalculation, including the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), a non-profit group of restaurant owners, food companies and concerned individuals (none of which are named on its website).



Last month, CCF ran full-page advertisements in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today and Chicago Tribune attacking what they call "obesity hype" and "unwarranted hysteria" by food police, trial lawyers and government.

While I am definitely in favor of protecting consumer freedom in eating choices and for our industry being able to produce and sell foods for profit, I am not so sure the CCF gets the point.

Obesity may be killing less people than we originally thought, but it is still a serious disease that sickens millions of Americans and contributes to heart disease and cancer deaths. Reports last month in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reveal that being obese (at any age) or underweight (especially in the elderly) is associated with an increased risk of death. Being normal weight or overweight showed no increased risk of death, according to JAMA reports.

Just a few weeks ago, Kraft Foods Biscuit Division announced the reformation of three varieties of Oreo cookies that will contain zero grams of trans fat per serving. The offerings, which should be on supermarket shelves by the end of the year, include a Reduced Fat Oreo, Golden Oreo Original and Golden Uh Oh! Oreo.

If you are wondering where the average American may get his or her news about the reformulated Oreos, tune into Live with Regis and Kelly. When Rege relayed the message about the Oreos with no trans fat, the audience reaction was not one Kraft would have liked. Based on a New York Post item, Rege joked that it's taken Kraft two years and millions of dollars to make an Oreo that tastes worse.

It seems as though the food industry can't win. If anything positive comes out of the never-ending obesity debate, let's hope we learn more about how to control it while still providing many food choices that taste great.



Food Engineering Editoral Advisory Board

David Watson
Vice President, Engineering
Pepperidge Farm, Inc.

Kevin Mellor
Director, Processing Center of Excellence
ConAgra

John Eberle
Innovation Group Manager
Frito-Lay

Dave Plinski
Director, Dairy Foods Eningeering
Land O' Lakes

Dave Gemellaro
Director, Sector Engineering
Kraft Foods

Peter Migchels
Director of Engineering, Fresh Bakeries
Maple Leaf Foods

Tom Wolters
Senior Manager Technology
Pepsico Beverages & Food

Carl Krueger
Senior Manager, Global Engineering Services
H.J. Heinz

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