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Originally published Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 3:07 PM

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‘Fed Up’: Scary truths about yogurt, other processed foods

A three-star review of “Fed Up,” a documentary about processed food that will alarm anyone who eats (that is, all of us).


Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 3 stars

‘Fed Up,’ a documentary directed by Stephanie Soechtig. 99 minutes. Rated PG for thematic elements including smoking images, and brief mild language. Varsity.

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Before “Fed Up,” no movie had ever sent me hurrying to my refrigerator to read food labels — but there’s always a first time. Stephanie Soechtig’s documentary, about the role of processed food in the obesity epidemic, is designed to alarm anyone who eats, and does so. Among its many informational tidbits: Food nutrition labels contain recommended daily percentages for fat, cholesterol, sodium and carbohydrates — but not for sugar. “Fed Up” tells us that the sugar lobby successfully kept this off the label, so it would be harder for us to know if we, say, consumed a day’s worth of sugar in one serving of yogurt. (Which, apparently, I was doing. No more.)

Narrated (and executive produced) by Katie Couric, “Fed Up” gives us plenty of facts and numbers about the dangers of excess sugar, the “low-fat” craze that caused food manufacturers to quietly double up on sweetener, the stunning rise in recent years of obesity-related illness. But it also shows us the face of the epidemic: four overweight teens, all of whom are trying to keep active and eat healthily, but who struggle to make the right choices in school cafeterias (which overwhelmingly serve fast food) and supermarkets (where 80 percent of food products have added sugar), and whose well-meaning parents are often little help.

“Childhood obesity isn’t as simple as the press or television or even Mrs. Obama would have us believe,” says a weeping 14-year-old girl. (The film is critical of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, saying that focusing primarily on exercise leaves out a huge portion of the problem.)

Ultimately, what “Fed Up” urges us to do is common sense: read nutrition labels, avoid sugar-loaded processed food whenever possible, cook your own food at home as often as possible (so you know what’s in it) and help your kids to do all of these things. Though alarming in its tone, it’s ultimately hopeful. We’re reminded that the U.S. changed its attitude toward tobacco in just a few decades; perhaps the same can be done for sugary, processed food — one refrigerator at a time.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com



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