"Stuffed" Takes On America's Fat Industry

Sixty-four-ounce soft drinks. Monster Thickburgers. Unlimited refills. Americans are overstuffed, no doubt about it: two thirds of the nation is overweight and the number's ballooning as fast as our waistlines. Consumers blame food companies who bombard us with advertisements to eat, eat, eat; companies blame consumers who say they want healthier fare and yet continue to supersize. The truth? The responsibility lies all around, says Hank Cardello in his new book "Stuffed." A former exec at General Mills and Coca-Cola, Cardello had an epiphany about a decade ago (involving, naturally, a personal health scare). Now, he's at the forefront of obesity awareness and trying to get disparate interests—food CEOs and lobbyists on the one side, FDA watchdogs and nutritionists on the other—to come up with creative, profitable solutions to our public health crisis.

That's easier said than done, as Cardello acknowledges. From pork-barrel farm bills that penalize non-corn vegetable crops to corporate subsidies that put vending machines in schools in exchange for relieving local tax burdens, the forces of status quo can seem insurmountable. And when the government intervenes for change, the results are often well-meaning but disastrous. Still, Cardello thinks Big Food can be convinced that making healthy food will actually improve the bottom line. "Stuffed" highlights intelligent success stories: a high school that worked with Coca-Cola to sell more water and fruit juice, with a big boost in profits; a chicken chain that subbed in a lighter dip recipe without customers noticing (or complaining). Put it this way, consumer's health is "just good business."