[Skip to Navigation]
Views 501
Citations 0
Comment & Response
September 2017

Ethical Considerations for Nutrition Counseling About Processed Food

Author Affiliations
  • 1Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
  • 2Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
JAMA Pediatr. 2017;171(9):914. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.1909

To the Editor We read with great interest the article “Processed Food: An Experiment that Failed.”1 We applaud efforts to bring attention to the public health effects of processed food. However, we are concerned that it misses the mark on 2 important issues related to families’ efforts to eat more healthfully.

First, we were troubled by the following sentence: “One-third of American mothers today don’t even know what real food is or how to cook,” a situation that renders them and their children “hostages to the processed food industry.”1 Such framing is concerning because it reinforces a problematic norm that mothers bear the primary responsibility for childhood obesity.2 Emphasizing the role of mothers in addressing childhood obesity makes sense from one perspective because US women are both more likely to shop for and prepare meals and to take children to the pediatrician than their male counterparts.3,4 Nevertheless, focusing solely on mothers represents a missed opportunity to enlist fathers and the broader society in promoting childhood nutrition and well-being.4 Relatedly, we must acknowledge the growing diversity of American families. In the 1960s, nearly three-quarters of American children lived in a family with 2 married parents in their first marriage. Today, less than half do so, one-quarter live with a single parent, and a growing number are in same-sex couple households. Recommendations and interventions for healthy eating should acknowledge and address changing household arrangements and their implications for children’s health.

Add or change institution