What is the Price of Our Children’s Health?

Dan Newman | March 20, 2006

March 20, 2006 - More fresh fruit in school breakfasts--it sounds like a good idea for everyone. This fall legislators sought an $18 million pilot program to help schools pay for fresh fruit.

But there was a voice of opposition--the food processing industry. They benefit from more sales of canned, dried, and frozen fruit, not fresh.

And they got their way. Working through a Central Valley lawmaker, they deleted “fresh” from the proposed program in twelve places, replacing it with “nutritious.” The governor signed this program into law last September. Now schools can serve canned fruit in sugar syrup.

Putting fruit in syrup is no different than adding sugar, Dr. Robert Lustig, an expert on childhood obesity, told the SF Chronicle. The percentage of young people who are overweight has more than doubled in the last 20 years, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. In 2003, providing medical treatment to obese Americans cost $75 billion.

Dole Foods, their owner, and a related company have given $381,000 to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s campaigns since 2002. Dean Cortopassi, owner of a Stockton canning firm, has given more than $270,000. From 2001-2004, the food processing and sales industry contributed $2.3 million to 189 different candidates, according to Institute on Money in State Politics data.

Said Dr. Lustig, “We have co-opted our children’s health so someone in big food can make money.”

(Source: SF Chronicle 9/16/05 and 3/7/06 )