Big food and ‘added value’ crap

Adding manufacturing steps and adding additives – ‘added value’  – is a way of trying to add to sales and profits. This is one of the reasons why we get so much crap in food, and why so much natural food is transformed into unnatural states. Apart from adding to big business profits this also helps add a lot to the weight of people, and poorer people seem to be the biggest victims.

Fast food franchise are amongst the biggest culprits, but retail food also contributes a lot.

The socio economic group most affected looks apparent if you see the physiques and shopping trolley contents prevalent in supermarkets in lower income areas (a non-scientific personal observation).

If you wanted to be really cynical and conspiratorial you could suggest that big pharma was also involved, because the ‘obesity epidemic’ is good for the health care business.

Now the food industry has established their profitable product lines they are under increasing attack, mostly from health academics who want to restrict or tax things like sugar.

Noted: How the food industry adopted the tactics of Big Tobacco

The food industry is adopting Big Tobacco’s tactics by interfering in the nutrition science field, a new book by Marion Nestle reveals.

The author’s name is a bit ironic perhaps.

It’s getting harder to inflict poor health on the population with tobacco, so food is now taking over as the big evil, but unlike tobacco, it’s a bit difficult banning drink and food from bars, restaurants and cafes.

What have Russian hackers and the 2016 US presidential election got to do with nutrition research? The collateral damage of that infamous hacking scandal was a most fortuitous (and super-sized) revelation of how food companies actively interfere in the nutrition science field, says Marion Nestle in her new book Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat.

Along with the electronic messages from Democratic Party officials that were posted on the WikiLeaks website, the hackers (linked to the Russian Government) also stole emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign team and posted them on a new website, DC Leaks. In the process, they uncovered a trail of emails between Michael Goltzman, a vice-president of the Coca-Cola Company, and Capricia Marshall, an adviser on Clinton’s campaign who was also doing consulting work for Coca-Cola.

The emails revealed the tactics they used to ensure the company’s business interests were protected from public-health efforts. These included keeping tabs on certain academic researchers, Nestle among them – perhaps not surprisingly, given Nestle, professor emerita of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, previously wrote a book, Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning).

But more surprising were the details of Coca-Cola recruiting dieticians to promote soft drinks on social media and their attempts to pressure and influence reporters and editors of major media outlets such as the Associated Press and Wall Street Journal to prevent publication of any negative stories about their beverages.

The company was also funding university scientists to produce scientific studies that suggested, among other things, that simply walking 7116 steps a day was enough to keep adults in energy balance.

While this study may appear to be basic research on exercise physiology, “it implies that physical activity – and not all that much – is all you need to control your weight, regardless of how much Coca-Cola you drink,” Nestle writes in Unsavory Truth.

Exercise is certainly an important part of staying healthy and not getting too fat, but the type and quality of food is more critical.

“Overall, the hacked emails offer a rare glimpse into how this beverage company, simply in the normal course of doing business, attempted to influence nutritionists, nutrition research, journalists covering this research, and dietary advice to the public.”

Nestle’s book is about more than Coca-Cola, though. The company’s hacked emails are just one public example of how various food, beverage and supplement companies fund nutrition researchers and practitioners, along with their professional associations, with the ultimate goal of boosting sales of their products.

Big business funding research favourable to their business is not new. And it is difficult to control.

For anyone old enough to remember when smoking was allowed in restaurants, pubs and aeroplanes (but only if you were seated in a smoking row on the plane), the similarities between the tobacco industry’s battle and the modern food industry are uncanny.

That’s because industries producing products of questionable health benefit all use a well-worn playbook, Nestle says, that requires “repeated and relentless use” of these strategies:

  • Cast doubt on the science
  • Fund research to produce desired results
  • Offer gifts and consulting arrangements
  • Use front groups
  • Promote self-regulation
  • Promote personal responsibility as the fundamental issue
  • Use the courts to challenge critics and unfavourable regulations.

The tobacco industry’s use of the playbook included the endless repetition of statements, such as, “cigarette smoking is a matter of personal responsibility”, and “government attempts to regulate tobacco are manifestations of a nanny state”, among other things.

Both of which bear an uncanny resemblance to the current line coming from Coca-Cola New Zealand about personal responsibility on a page entitled: Do soft drinks cause obesity? “Like all food and beverages, soft drinks with sugar can be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced lifestyle as long as people don’t consume them to excess.”

It’s easy to say that people should take responsibility for their own health, they should exercise sensibly, and they should be sensible about what type and quantity of food they eat. But it’s not that simple. Marketers, especially food marketers, have become expert at duping gullible people, encouraging them to buy things that are bad for them.

At least people get some exercise still wheeling shopping trolleys laden with sugar drinks and convenience food around the supermarket

Treadmills at the checkout haven’t caught on, but the marketing treadmill is helping ruin many people’s health.

Nestle believes that controlling the inappropriate practices of food companies is the role of government and quotes ethicist Jonathan Marks, “Governments, not corporations, are the guardians of public health … It is time for public health agencies and regulators to ‘struggle’ a little more with corporations, creating structural incentives for healthier and more responsible industry practices, and calling companies to account when they fail to comply.”

Government interference in marketing and in food choices is very contentious – and is unlikely to be particularly effective.

Perhaps we are just witnessing evolution at work, where over-population of a species inevitably leads to self destruction.

 

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14 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  December 2, 2018

    the chase for profits has no conscience…whatsoever.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  December 2, 2018

      A gernalisation; something which is not true in every situation – but so often famously and commonly true to be eminently quotable. We read about this sitauation every day – from land agents to banks to you name it among corporations.

      Reply
    • David

       /  December 2, 2018

      A corporation is not a moral entity its reason for being is to make as much money as possible, often the best and most sustainable way of doing that is to provide healthier options because consumers are willing to pay a premium for it.
      Its amazing how many things we thought were healthy/unhealthy and how wrong the experts were and how bad the science was, the Americans provided some truly awful advice based on which lobby group provided the most cash.

      Reply
  2. Kitty Catkin

     /  December 2, 2018

    I have always understood ‘added value’ not to mean additives in food but to material things (for want of a better word) like doing something to a house to add value to it. I worked in a shop in Lambton Quay which sold lovely things, and I ‘added value’ to a range of little vases by ordering dried flowers to match them. They were a steady seller, but when they had a bouquet to match, we sold far more of them and had to keep reordering them.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  December 2, 2018

      Nowhere can I find additives to food being considered to be ‘added value.’ People are unlikely to pay more for these.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  December 2, 2018

        Two PDTs must be idiotic enough to pay more for additives.

        Two PDTs don’t accept the real definition of added value.

        Two PDTs have nothing better to do than scroll down posts to see who’s there and can be automatically downticked ?

        Reply
    • Pink David

       /  December 2, 2018

      Added value can also be selling something ‘organic’ in a brown paper bag for 10 times what the alternative is to ignorant people who are too smug to realise there is no health benefit to doing so.

      The marketeers are just as adept at selling to ‘smart’ people as they are at selling to the ‘gullible’.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  December 2, 2018

        Well, yes, but putting additives like colours into food won’t.

        Countdown is selling cruddy ‘ecobags’ which are nothing like as good as the ones they used to sell…and which are made out of, yes, plastic. I had one and it was so badly made that the seams came undone.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  December 2, 2018

          But I can’t find anyone who defines putting additives into food as ‘added value’.

          Reply
  3. Pink David

     /  December 2, 2018

    “natural food is transformed into unnatural states”

    Can you please define what is a natural food and what is an unnatural state?

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  December 2, 2018

      Technically speaking, I suppose that cooked peas are unnatural….

      Reply
  4. Pink David

     /  December 2, 2018

    “the similarities between the tobacco industry’s battle and the modern food industry are uncanny”

    This may well be true, but it’s also telling those who campaign against these food companies are just as happy to lie as well.

    In the UK, there are calls to ban ‘high sugar’ milkshakes Linda Greenwall from the Dental Wellness Trust claims the following;

    “These findings are remarkable, especially given tooth decay among children in Britain is now at a record high, largely because food and drink products are packed with unnecessary sugar.”

    The actual truth;

    “The Office for National Statistics has run the Children’s Dental Health Survey since 1983 and the figures are striking. The number of 12-year-olds who exhibited clear signs of tooth decay fell from 81 per cent in 1983 to 28 per cent in 2013. One in three kids of this age had a cavity in 1983 but by 2013 this had fallen to one in nine. ”

    A record low. Why do you think she feels the need to lie? Why should it be a criminal offense to sell a milkshake?

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  December 2, 2018

      I can’t imagine why ANYONE would tell such stupid lies…the kind that will be easily refuted.

      The Bitch From Hell who married our friend did this. If I was going to lie, I’d make sure that nobody could disprove it.

      Dear me ! Is that the time ? I must go and tart myself up, George Clooney’s due at any moment…he’s taking me to the Oscars…

      Reply

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