Over the last decade-and-a-half we have seen a spate of movies focusing on the ethics of companies in the food industry. Ever since Morgan Spurlock underwent the experiment of surviving on McDonald’s food for a month in Supersize Me, feature films such as Fast Food Nation and a spate of documentaries (Food Inc., End of the Line, Black Gold, GMO-OMG, and others) have scrutinized various aspects of the industry. Many of these movies have looked at the impacts of our Western system of food production and consumption and explored, for instance, labour practices in supply chains, environmental impacts of fish and meat production, or the general unsustainability of the modern food industry. Fed Up, directed by Stephanie Soechtig, focuses on the consumer interface and the way in which corporations shape consumer behaviour towards food. The film makes its case by taking stock of the obesity ‘pandemic’ in the US. While in 1980 there were zero cases of childhood type 2 diabetes the number rose to almost 60,000 by 2010. Experts tell us that over 95% of all Americans will be overweight or obese within the next two decades, and that by 2050 one out of every three Americans will have diabetes. Fed Up makes a powerful case by zooming in on the most vulnerable consumers: children. Roughly a fifth of 2–19-year-olds are currently obese. It is argued in the movie that this is not the result of lack of exercise or too much time in front of the computer or TV, but children’s inability to resist sugary foods. Today, 80% of food items sold in America have added sugar. The experts cited in the film argue that sugar—and in particular the heavily processed sugars used by the food industry as food additives—has an addictive potential similar to cocaine or nicotine. And it is this addictive function that leads the movie to making the claim that today’s food industry is copying the strategies used by the tobacco industry some 40 years ago. The sugar industry and its powerful lobby in Washington, it is suggested, have secured massive subsidies while preventing any meaningful regulation. The movie thus argues that obesity is ultimately funded by the government, and it assigns a damning role to regulators in this context. Despite its sober content the movie is a rather entertaining watch. Narrated and coproduced by celebrity news anchor Katie Couric, its case studies of obese 12-year-olds, and an array of experts from Michael Pollan to Bill Clinton, make it highly accessible. Most importantly, it gets the viewer thinking about the role of companies in influencing our diet, and in particular through exploiting their most vulnerable customers. Unsurprisingly then, it has become ‘the film that the food industry doesn’t want you to see’ as one critic put it, generating some fierce criticism on industry-backed forums such as http://


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