Q and A: Hank Cardello, author of "Stuffed"

(Credit: Urbanite)

Former food industry executive Hank Cardello says American industry needs to cut back on extra-large portions like 7 Eleven's Big Gulp.

By Lucy Cohen Blatter

In his new book, “Stuffed,” former food industry executive Hank Cardello argues that the industry needs to take action to end the obesity epidemic.

“Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese,” he said. We spoke to him about what he thinks should be done.

How are American food companies contributing to the obesity epidemic?

Clearly, the portions have gotten out of hand. Calories are up 21 percent from the 1950s, across the board, from restaurants and in packaged food.

Consumers are looking for the best value. It’s like quantity per price or per dollar. The model’s gotta change — to lean means green. More is not better.

The consumer has been totally confused. The nutritional label on the side of the products, it’s a lot of confusing information that doesn’t necessarily translate to eating better. It’s a well-intended government program, like the food pyramid. It’s just tough for people to understand what a serving size is.What can be done?

It’s time for the companies to step up. It’s not all about the government. Let the government set the rules and then get lost.

The best way to do it is a trim-10 plan. First, the government should tell the companies to take at least 10 percent of calories out of the products. They should get behind brands like Coke Zero; they should also push 16 oz drinks rather than 20 oz; the 100-calorie packs are a no-brainer.

Second, education is a problem. Let the food guys do it. Like how beer has “Drink Responsibly,” they should have “eat responsibly.”

Third, if the companies do one and two, they should get some tax relief.

What can the consumer do to avoid fat traps?

Focus on calories. My opinion is if you focus on the number of calories, you take in you’ll also take in less sugar, salt, etc. Pay attention to the sizes. Don’t supersize, zero size. You can have all the refills you want if it’s coke zero.

But the initiative has to be coming from the companies.

Who are some of the biggest culprits?

It’s a collision of the large sizes, and the consumer not saying no — it’s both of us. Items like the Monster Thickburger from Hardee’s (that’s 1,420 calories) and the 64-ounce Double Big-Gulp, don’t help.

Tags: stuffed , food industry , hank cardello

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