Fed Up


Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

Ariel Gulchin in Fed Up
"Fed Up asks the questions the food industry "at the heart of the problem" does not want looked into." | Photo: Scott Sinkler

Fed Up, co-executive produced by Academy Award winner Laurie David (An Inconvenient Truth) and Regina Scully (The Invisible War), with narrator Katie Couric and director Stephanie Soechtig, debunks myths and strategies that target the eating habits of children by helping adults to start decoding what one interviewee calls "the world's deadliest diet".

From Bill Clinton to Michael Pollan and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who attended the New York premiere at the Museum of Modern Art, the well-edited interviews deliver a plethora of information that makes the subject of obesity in America look less of a mystery and more of a conspiracy. Very much along the lines of the tobacco industry's workings, advertising, especially, in the case of sugar targeted towards children, puts a happy face on highly addictive products.

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The Flintstones seamlessly moved on from promoting Winston cigarettes to neon green cereal with sugar levels through the cave roof. Studies with rats show that a high percentage preferred sugar water to cocaine.

When the Reagan administration in the Eighties cut funding for schools, many of them closed down their kitchens, many of them not to re-open. Fast-food chains feed America's children now. Great powers pull the strings so that pizza and french fries are officially categorised as vegetables on school menus.

How come fitness rates rising paralleled the rise of obesity also? Why are 160 calories in almonds not the same as 160 calories in soda? Fed Up asks the questions the food industry "at the heart of the problem" does not want looked into. With so much conflict of interest, research often funded by the same industry the studies are supposed to be about and a US Department of Agriculture in the double role of protecting customers and serving the businesses, America is in the middle of one of the biggest health epidemics.

While uncovering misinformation tactics and distraction campaigns, the film follows a group of four children fighting tough battles with their weight and health. "Only 30% of people suffering from diet-related diseases are actually obese," the filmmakers state, and point to the fact that, in 1980, Type 2 diabetes was nonexistent in children. The numbers have sky-rocketed ever since and will lead to enormous complications in the future. With the rise of low fat products and misleading labeling that advertises highly processed and sugar-filled foods as some sort of healthy alternative, over the past 30 years, obesity rates continued to grow.

Soechting convincingly links the terrible official advice with the disastrous consequences.

Children were given cameras to film themselves and their families during weight loss struggles and we see them following standard recommendations that have the opposite effect. They exercise, especially Maggie Valentine, who is an avid swimmer and anything but lazy, and you see them eat brightly colored, reduced calorie products.

Families are becoming increasingly desperate. The wrongness of the system looks right at us. At the after party for Fed Up, many of the guests decided to take on the 10-day sugar-free challenge the film suggests, starting Monday, May 12, to raise awareness for ourselves and others. Sugar is the only ingredient on the US nutrition label that isn't given a daily value percentage. It is high time to uncloak treacherous half truths and shame those, who deal in addictions with society's most vulnerable.

Some excellent ideas about regulating marketing may sound funny now, but maybe not in the future. Every celebrity selling a soft drink should indeed have to also advertise a vegetable.

Fed Up could change the way you eat - and most likely, it should.

Reviewed on: 12 May 2014
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Fed Up packshot
A documentary about food industry advertising in America.

Director: Stephanie Soechtig

Year: 2014

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: US


Sundance 2014

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