Michael Mudd, Ex-Kraft Executive: Food Industry 'Puts Profits Over Public Health'

03/17/2013 01:57 pm ET

A former food industry executive is turning against his own.

Michael Mudd, the ex-vice president of global corporate affairs for Kraft foods, urged lawmakers in a New York Times op-ed Sunday to keep the pressure on the food industry to reform through taxes, mandatory guidelines for marketing food to children and requirements to display nutrition information more prominently.

“I left the industry when I finally had to acknowledge that reform would never come from within,” Mudd, who retired in 2004, wrote. “I could no longer accept a business model that put profits over public health -- and no one else should have to, either.”

The op-ed comes less than a week after a judge struck down New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to ban large, sugary drinks, calling it “arbitrary and capricious.” The beverage industry opposed the controversial initiative since its inception.

Mudd argued in the op-ed that limits like Bloomberg’s proposed plan are necessary to curb obesity because he knows from experience that the food industry won’t police itself. During a meeting in 1999, Mudd reportedly tried unsuccessfully to convince a group of food industry CEOs from a variety of companies to tackle the obesity problem head on by devoting their army of scientists and marketers to creating healthier food and convincing Americans to like it, according to The New York Times.

For their part, food industry executives have said that processed foods and drinks aren’t the only thing to blame for the rise in obesity; a boost in kids’ TV watching and video game playing habits, play a role as well, they say.

The food industry has taken some pains in recent years to address the obesity problem. Coca-Cola released a controversial ad earlier this year acknowledging its role in the epidemic and highlighting its offerings with fewer calories and sugar. Recently, some grocers, including Walmart, have tried to promote healthier products by their prices.

Still, thanks to food industry efforts to engineer foods that consumers will crave and market them effectively, even well-intentioned shoppers face an uphill battle in making healthy choices. And it’s no wonder the push works; processed foods and sugary drinks can be as addictive as cocaine in some cases, according to a 2011 study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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