According to a recent survey in California, an overwhelming 90 per cent of those questioned said that they, not the food industry, are to blame for what they eat and drink.
"The vast majority ?77 per cent ?do not think food and beverage companies should be held legally responsible for making Americans overweight," said Context Marketing who conducted the poll last month.
The findings fly in the face of widely held views that the obesity epidemic has been fuelled by the food and beverage industry. The controversial global dietary strategy designed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is one such example. Although in the face of mounting evidence, no-one can dispute that a calorie-rich excessive diet is a burden on the heart and body.
According to the Context Marketing survey of 1057 Americans, four in five agree that Americans are eating too much and becoming more obese. But if consumers are clear about the problem, they seem uncertain about how to tackle it, said Bob Kenney, Context Marketing president.
"Clearly many people are conflicted on the issue of obesity," said Kenny. Which leaves the door open for the food and beverage industries.
"Consumers seem to be sending the message that they are open to help in dealing with obesity. There is an opportunity for companies to respond to consumers both in terms of the products offered and in educating them about how to enjoy those products in a healthy diet," added Kenney.
New product development will be key to market share in the US weight loss market - valued by Marketdata Enterprises at over $39 billion. It is already saturated with low-fat and low-cal products such as diet soft drinks, artificial sweeteners and OTC meal replacements and diet pills to encourage healthier lifestyles.
According to a recent study carried out by the non-profit group RTI International and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity-related US medical costs reached $75 billion in 2003 with taxpayers paying up to $175 annually to foot the bill.
The UN-backed WHO estimates that there are approximately 300 million people worldwide believed to be obese and 750 million people overweight. The organisation's 'Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health?will be presented to the 192-nation World Health Assembly in May for final approval.