I have posted a rant about Big Food, Badvertising, and corporate idiocy over at First Draft today: Capitalism Has Failed. Catch me over there.
Tag Archives: Big Food
America’s “obesity crisis” has many causes but dammit, people, this can’t help:
I took this picture at the local Harris Teeter the other day, but it could easily have been taken at Kroger, Safeway, Ralph’s, or any other mega grocery chain. The never-ending “buy-one, get-one FREE” sale on potato chips has puzzled me for a long time: it’s not even accurate to call it a sale anymore, because they’re just always sold that way. And it’s been this way for years.
Ya know, I don’t ever see a buy-one, get-one deal on broccoli or spinach. Just sayin’, guys.
I really despise junk food, fast food, frankenfood, you name it but I do have a weakness for Lay’s sour cream & onion potato chips. I don’t always eat potato chips but when I do … you get the picture. And if I pick up a bag of these, the check-out clerk never fails to remind me, “Hey, they’re buy-one, get-one free!”
To which I respond: “But I only want one bag.”
At which point he or she looks at me like I just dropped in from the planet Xthazgarban and forgot to deploy my Humanoid Lifeform Image Shield.
Look: it’s great to tell people they need to have “personal responsibility” and make healthy food and lifestyle choices. It’s great to inform people about what’s in their food by posting nutritional information everywhere. It’s fine that people in Washington are talking about the impact farm policy has on what ends up on our store shelves. Great, but at the same time you’re doing all that good stuff, we’ve got another conversation happening in the grocery aisle which goes something like this:
“You want some potato chips? C’mon, you know you do. You really, really want some. Look how pretty and bright we are! Here, take two! The second one is free, it’s on us! For later. No, really, take it. You know you want to. Take it! TAKE THE DAMN POTATO CHIPS!“
Yeah, that’s about how this goes. What does it say about America when the junk food companies are literally giving their product away? Look, I know it just kills you that consumers are educated enough to be turned off by ads like this one, but you can stop shoving your crap in my face now.
Oh, and Regal Cinemas? That goes for you, too. Stop making your employees ask if I want a slice of pizza when I order a bottle of water. If I wanted damn pizza I’d have asked for some.
Hey, Coca Cola: Big Tobacco called, they want their playbook back.
Seriously, I’m trying to figure out what the point was behind this interview with Katie Bayne, Coca-Cola’s President and General Manager, Sparkling Beverages in North America (yes, that’s her title). I guess it’s better than working behind the scenes with one of Rick Berman’s phony front groups, like the “Center for Consumer Freedom” — except of course Coca-Cola is operating in that shadow realm, too. But whatever.
Anyway, I’m sure it will come as news to no one that Coca-Cola’s President and General Manager, Sparkling Beverages in North America thinks sugary sparkling beverages are so waaay awesome and there’s no scientific evidence that they’re harmful to your health! None! In fact, this is what Coca-Cola’s President and General Manager, Sparkling Beverages in North America feeds her family! For realz!
Now, before I dive into this, I think Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on supersized soft drinks is a tad too authoritarian for my tastes. But I understand his frustration, because even though we all know better, millions of Americans still drink this crap. So clearly the whole “education” route hasn’t worked. As for me, I say: tax the shit out of it. Tax all of it, just like we do cigarettes and alcohol, put the money toward health and nutrition programs. There’s no reason for the bad stuff to be more affordable than the good stuff. That’s the definition of “doing it wrong.”
But all that aside, I also think it’s incredibly lame to give Coca-Cola’s President and General Manager, Sparkling Beverages in North America, a platform to spread misinformation and corporate propaganda. Get a load of this:
Q: Is there any merit to limits being placed on the size of sugary drinks folks can buy?
A: Sugary drinks can be a part of any diet as long as your calories in balance with the calories out. Our responsibility is to provide drink in all the sizes that consumers might need.
That’s utter bullshit. There are 273 calories in a Snickers bar. You can also eat 273 calories worth of chicken and broccoli. Let’s see which one has more nutritional value. Perhaps Coca-Cola’s President and General Manager, Sparkling Beverages in North America would like to eat one of these for lunch every day for a month? Let’s see which she picks.
Q: But critics call soft drinks “empty” calories.
A: A calorie is a calorie. What our drinks offer is hydration. That’s essential to the human body. We offer great taste and benefits whether it’s an uplift or carbohydrates or energy. We don’t believe in empty calories. We believe in hydration.
Again, bullshit. If you want hydration, drink water.
This was my favorite:
Q: How much Coke should a kid drink a day?
A: We don’t make recommendations on what kids should drink. But a 12-ounce can of Coke has 140 calories, the same as a lunch-box-size bag of pretzels.
Those are our options? How about some apples and almond butter?
The entire article goes on in this “perfectly fine as part of a balanced diet” vein, an absolute sop to the Coca-Cola Corporation and Big Food. I can’t imagine why USA Today did this. Were they afraid of losing ad revenue? Seriously, when the Summer Olympics are upon us, let’s ask how many of athletes include 32 oz. Coke as part of their training diet. I’d say, none.
I don’t drink a lot of soft drinks, obviously. Maybe four times a year I’ll get a hankering for a sugary Coke or a Dr Pepper. If I do, I try to find the Mexican Coke, made with cane sugar not corn syrup. It just tastes better to me. Mr. Beale, on the other hand, used to be a Pepsi fanatic. He’d guzzle the stuff by the gallon. Once while at the beach I had one of his Diet Pepsis. It tasted nasty and was so salty, it never quenched my thirst. In fact, I found myself craving another one almost immediately. That’s when I realized this shit is like crack in a cup. No, it’s not part of a healthy balanced diet. No it’s not okay in moderation because there is no moderation. Once you start you can’t stop.
And what’s really not okay is you guys presenting your crack in a cup as a perfectly wholesome, normal thing for people to consume on a regular basis. It’s really not okay for USA Today to print this corporate propaganda and pretend they’re offering “news.”
Mark Bittman’s column on this issue is a must read.
Mr. Beale was thrilled to learn that House Republicans have reclassified pizza as a vegetable. After all, I’m constantly nagging at him to eat his vegetables and reminding him of all the health benefits of adding fresh, organic produce to his diet. Now he just needs to wave that slice of meat lovers, stuffed-crust pizza in my face — with extra cheese. Ha ha!
Thanks a lot, House Republicans.
Seriously, this is some crazy shit right here. I realize it’s for the purposes of school lunches. But if you’re sending your kids to school and don’t want them saddled with diabetes and heart disease by the time they’re 20, I don’t think telling them the vegetable of the day is pizza is the way to do it. Maybe it’s just me.
Okay, raise your hand: who thinks this wasn’t just the House Republicans’ “fuck you” to Michelle Obama? I do. It’s just modern-day hippie-punching, with a twist.
I’m old enough to remember when Ronald Reagan classified ketchup as a vegetable. Well, who says Republicans don’t like recycling? We laughed then and we’re laughing now. Okay, first of all, tomatoes are a fruit, technically — not a vegetable. But second of all, by the time it’s been processed with liberal doses of sodium and corn syrup and turned into ketchup or pizza sauce, only an idiot would try to pretend it’s a vegetable.
Can’t believe I’m even bothering to explain this. Le Sigh.
Which brings to mind something else: Republicans are always lobbying against things like junk food taxes and laws mandating posting calorie counts in fast food restaurants. Their argument is, “well, everyone knows McDonald’s and KFC are bad for you! Personal responsibility, people!” But then they go ahead and tell everyone pizza is a vegetable? A little hypocritical, don’tcha think?
I’m not shocked that people might be confused about the dubious health benefits of a Taco Bell Fiesta Taco Salad (770 calories, 42 grams of fat, and a whopping 1,350 mg. of sodium and 74 grams of carbs. Yeesh.) It says “salad” in the name!
No wonder people are confused: they tune into a popular TV show like The Biggest Loser and see eight-time Olympic Gold Medalist Apolo Ono hawking Subway sandwiches — featuring chemically-laden, processed meats and genetically modified ingredients! I read Ono’s autobiography, and I promise you when training for the Olympics (in which he lost a pound a week and got down to 2% body fat) he did not eat processed meats and genetically modified foods.
Oh yeah, all this shit at the local strip mall is sooo healthy! And good for the planet, too! Yeah, Big Food has caught on to what the public wants, but instead of changing the way they do things, they’ve just changed advertising slogans. Free hand of the market, my ass.
Case in point: have you seen this ad from Chipotle, the fast food chain that claims to be so healthy and sustainable? I saw it at the movie theater. It’s got so many liberal dog whistles, from the Willie Nelson soundtrack to depiction of mechanized agri-business, that I immediately knew I was supposed to feel all warm and fuzzy toward Chipotle. Instead, I felt manipulated and offended, since I know Chipotle hawks the same genetically-modified crap as everyone else:
Pizza is not a vegetable and Subway is not health food and Chipotle is not dishing up sustainable burritos. But no wonder people are confused: it’s how the food industry wants it:
Q. On your blog you say, “confusion is one of the tried and true tools of the processed foods industry.” Can you say more about the subtle and not-so-subtle ways these companies confuse us?
A. I think one of the main ways the processed food industry is trying to grow and defend their business is by funding self-serving research. The goal of these studies isn’t to uncover “the truth” or to improve public health. Instead, the research is carefully constructed to create sound bites and statistics to help market their products or combat potential regulation. This is one of the primary ways we end up with conflicting studies that confuse consumers on what they should eat or drink.
Is this purposeful misdirection? Intent is always tough to prove, especially if you don’t have firsthand knowledge. Research tends to be the work of a select few within processed food companies, and I was never part of one of those groups. That said, if you dig into these studies and their methodology, you can usually find the telltale signs of how they have “stacked the deck” in their favor.
Q. What are three things you think every consumer should know about Big Food?
A. Big Food is profit-driven. Don’t be fooled into thinking a brand or the food company that owns it cares about you or your health.
Think critically. Most claims and advertising by Big Food companies are meant to manipulate you, not educate you. Read your labels and do your research.
There is no free lunch. Over the long-term, you always get what you pay for. Cheap food is very expensive once you add up the true costs — like the taxes you pay to subsidize Big Food companies, health consequences like obesity or diabetes, the devastating harm to our environment, and the inhumane treatment of animals raised within the industrialized food system.
Amen to that. I’m so fucking tired of being manipulated by Corporate Food and their minions in Congress, and then having everyone tell us we should know better. You know, we would know better if you didn’t constantly lie to us across a dizzying array of media platforms.
Obesity is a huge problem in this country and it is affecting the national health and welfare. But it goes way beyond obesity. These Frankenfoods that the corporate food industry is shoving down the American gullet are everywhere, even in supposed “health foods.” And the corporate food industry is purposely confusing us so we’ll just shut up and eat our cruel gruel like good little robots.
Well, I’m not shutting up. And I’m not buying your fake food, either.