Whole Foods CEO John Mackey is taking heat on social media for daring to say that American obesity has caused COVID-19 deaths, even though obesity is a comorbidity that medical professionals have cautioned against.
Speaking with The New York Times, Mackey, who has made it his life’s mission to encourage better eating, said that a majority of Americans are becoming food addicts and refused to blame it on poverty.
“Some people have been moving in the right direction, and the majority of people in the wrong direction,” he said. “We can see that through the way people eat today versus the way they ate 50 or 60 years ago. Statistically, we definitely moved in the wrong direction.”
“The whole world is getting fat, it’s just that Americans are at the leading edge of that. We’re getting fat, and we’re getting sicker, by the way,” he continued. “I mean, there’s a very high correlation between obesity and COVID deaths. And one of the reasons the United States has had more of a problem with COVID is simply that the comorbidities like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, they’re just higher in the U.S.”
The interviewer pushed back by questioning if that were a valid point, considering that most Americans do not have access to a Whole Foods in their neighborhood. Mackey, however, believed that Americans are food addicts and that the market has simply responded to their demands, noting that Whole Foods has tried to set up operations in low-income areas.
“In some sense, we’re all food addicts. We love things that are rich, that are sweet. We love ice cream. We love popcorn. We love French fried potatoes. And the market is providing people what they want,” he said. “I don’t think there’s an access problem. I think there’s a market demand problem. People have got to become wiser about their food choices. And if people want different foods, the market will provide it.”
“Whole Foods has opened up stores in inner cities. We’ve opened up stores in poor areas. And we see the choices. It’s less about access and more about people making poor choices, mostly due to ignorance,” he continued. “It’s like a being an alcoholic. People are just not conscious of the fact that they have food addictions and need to do anything about it. And Big Food, the fast food industry, the processed food industry — they all have a lot of skin in the game. They want people to continue to consume more calorie-rich foods.”
“We have not done a good job of educating people about what healthy food is. I tend to think it’s going to come about through education and through people becoming more aware and conscious about eating healthier, and then the market will respond to that,” he concluded.
Mackey took a beating on social media, with multiple Twitter users accusing him of hypocrisy.
“Says the man whose store we refer to as ‘Whole Paycheck.’ John Mackey, I suggest you come & spend some time in my lab w my participants and patients w obesity. You will see just how very mistaken you were when you spread this misinformation & spewed weight stigma to the masses,” said Michelle Cardel, Ph.D., MS, RD.
Says the man whose store we refer to as “Whole Paycheck”.
John Mackey, I suggest you come & spend some time in my lab w my participants and patients w obesity. You will see just how very mistaken you were when you spread this misinformation & spewed weight stigma to the masses. https://t.co/Ot37tNgKYl
— Michelle Cardel,PhD, MS, RD (@MichelleCardel) September 25, 2020
“Disingenuous John Mackey. Whole Foods purchased my fav Natural Foods store about 15 years ago, it was downhill from there. The local produce – gone. Junk “health food” – abundant & prominently displayed Actual “whole foods” – choices decreased to make room for trendy foods,” tweeted one user.
Disingenuous John Mackey.
Whole Foods purchased my fav Natural Foods store about 15 years ago, it was downhill from there.
The local produce – gone.
Junk "health food" – abundant & prominently displayed
Actual "whole foods" – choices decreased to make room for trendy foods.
— I just voted for Joe Biden / Kamala Harris!!! (@FrancesJohnmyda) September 24, 2020
“Has John Mackey seen the prices at Whole Foods? These CEOs run their mouths from their gilded cages,” tweeted another.
Has John Mackey seen the prices at Whole Foods? These CEOs run their mouths from their gilded cages.
— Karen Smith (@karen1smith1) September 25, 2020