Friday, March 25, 2005

Harvard, the food business, and obesity

Several of my students attended Harvard's high-profile obesity conference last week (skipping class!), and came back with interesting things to say. Here is the Boston Globe's nice summary:
As a senior vice president for food giant ConAgra, Pat Verduin yesterday entered a potential lion's den -- a Harvard obesity symposium filled with health experts alarmed by Americans' eating habits.

During the rare encounter between corporate food makers and some of their most stringent critics, she flashed a slide showing her firm's healthier brands, like Healthy Choice and Egg Beaters, but then sought to soften the crowd: ''We make Slim Jims. I'm going to be honest with you," said Verduin, to laughter.

The Harvard Medical School two-day symposium, attended by about 140 people yesterday, took place against a backdrop of considerable alarm over childhood obesity. The concern is particularly felt in the halls of Harvard and its affiliated hospitals, whose researchers have played a central role studying and publicizing the obesity problem....

The symposium was funded through grants from McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Dannon, and a number of other food makers.
I have lately been reading Harvard epidemiologist Walter Willett's Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy.

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