How Industry Influences What We Eat
No, not the kind of food fight you had in the 8th grade cafeteria, but a look at the ways the food industry battles to influence what foods you buy, and what you and your children eat.
The first and perhaps most obvious way is with advertising. The industry spends 30 billion, (yes billion!) dollars a year on
advertising, targeting both children and adults. Does advertising influence what we eat? Definitely! The 10000 TV commercials your kids see each year are all too effective. They wouldn't keep spending 30 billion if they weren't.
The food industry is also very active in the school systems. Many of the nutrition education materials given to school children are actually written and published by the meat, dairy and sugar industries. Soft drink companies also buy directly into schools using marketing agreements called "pouring rights" that give them exclusive and prominent placement of soft drinks in schools. These companies want to establish life long purchasing habits in children too young to realize that they are the target of marketing campaigns.
The food industry often tries to buy credibility by sponsoring nutrition organizations, or in some cases simply starting their own. This lets them put a seemingly objective face on what is actually an industry message. The sponsorship lists of many nutrition groups read like a who's who of fast food and junk food companies.
And of course food companies lobby politically to effect both legislative and regulatory changes. And just like with advertising, if it wasn't working, they wouldn't keep spending big money on it. Recently it was disclosed that on the USDA dietary guidelines panel, which is the official US government voice on what you should eat, many of the panel members had financial ties to the processed food, dairy, and even candy industries.
So, the fox is running the hen house. How can you win this sort of food fight? Well, you can seek out information from sources that are as objective as possible. You can teach your children, become active in pouring rights and school nutrition issues, and you can vote with your dollars in that most effective of all voting booths, the marketplace.
Audio running time.. 2 min, 36 sec