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Monday 8 June 2015

Big Food: Sounds a Lot Like Big Tobacco

Food is not tobacco. From birth, we need food to sustain us. On the other hand, no one needs to smoke. But the public health community is concerned about both diet and tobacco use for a very good reason: Over a lifetime, poor diets and smoking both cause serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
The similarities between unhealthy food and tobacco go beyond the health effects. When it comes to corporate responsibility, executives at some of the nation's largest food and beverage companies seem to have learned a lot from their counterparts at Big Tobacco in aggressively promoting consumption of unhealthy foods and, in the same breath, blaming the consumer.
Big Food and Big Tobacco share some common bloodlines. It wasn't very long ago that some of these companies were one and the same. RJR Nabisco, for instance, oncesimultaneously contained the companies that made Camel cigarettes and Chips Ahoy! cookies. Until the mid-2000s, the companies that manufacture Marlboro and Virginia Slims cigarettes were part of the same conglomerate, Philip Morris (now Altria), which manufactured Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Kool Aid. Those companies have since split their tobacco businesses from their food businesses, but heavy-handed product marketing may be ingrained in the companies' DNA.
While we need food to live, we certainly don't need many of the junk foods -- many aimed at kids -- served up by food processors and restaurants. Soda and other sugary drinks, in particular, are one category of food that does far more harm than good.Sugary drinks are the single biggest source of calories in the American diet and prime culprits when it comes to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and other health problems.
Like Big Tobacco, Big Food goes to great lengths to muddy the waters and obscure the connections between soda and disease. "The products we make are not injurious to health," is how the Tobacco Industry Research Committee put it in a 1954 advertisement. In 2012 the American Beverage Association opined, "Sugar-sweetened beverages are not driving obesity." Coca-Cola executive Katie Bayne told this whopper to USA Today: "There is no scientific evidence that connects sugary beverages to obesity."
Besides denying the connections between their products and disease, food and tobacco companies both use the same language to blame their customers for the harm caused by their products. "What people want to do is their own decision," said American Tobacco CEO Robert Heimann in 1988. More recently, Don Thompson, then CEO of McDonald's, said "All of us have to make personal choices." Those statements may be literally true, but ignore the extent to which companies persuade, lure, and manipulate customers -- including children -- into making the very decisions that companies say should be up to them.
Though both food and tobacco companies have been notorious marketers to children, they both like to lecture parents: "It is the responsibility of every parent to encourage their children to make proper choices about lifestyle decisions," is how RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company put it in the mid-1990s. It's not the role of the federal government to discourage kids from smoking, it went on to say. In 2011, McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner said "It is up to [kids] to choose and their parents to choose, and it is their responsibility to do so."
Joe Camel, the cartoon animal used to attract children to cigarettes, was retired in 1997, under pressure from state attorneys general. A master settlement agreement between the AGs and the tobacco industry eliminated much of that industry's advertising to children, and even disbanded the Tobacco Institute, an aggressive industry lobbying force. But the food industry still uses cartoon characters to market disease-causing products to children, and food industry trade groups still devote millions to block progress and defend the status quo.
Big Tobacco and Big Food are now separate industries, but the playbook is much the same. How the game ends is up to us.


Gail said...


Interesting information.

Jumping rope is good exercise and fun.

Thank you for reading.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Big business is the same no matter what the product, food, tobacco, oil, automobiles... We are bombarded by their advertising every day. The problem is, there is no organization with the will and the money to contradict their advertising.

Lowcarb team member said...

Hi Gail ... glad you found the information of interest. We do our best to bring a wide variety of articles on the blog.
I enjoyed your recent post "Pieces" and the Skipping rhyme - as you say "Jumping rope is good exercise and fun"

Thanks for taking time to stop by, it's always good to read your thoughts.

All the best Jan

Cheryl said...

Great post, full of information.

I must confess I worry for my Grandchildren...........
Over the years I have tried to teach them about healthy eating but at the end of the day most children make choices via their taste buds ! Additives that are put into fast foods (fats and sugars) are often quite addictive.

I wonder how healthy these youngsters will be as they age......

Lowcarb team member said...

Hi Roses and Lilacs ... big business, big pharma, big food, big companies do have a lot of money at their disposal to spend on big advertising - but should we take what they say as fact!? More and more these days there are 'ordinary' people who are looking far more closely and seeing for themselves that not all is as claimed. There are bloggers, Forums, videos 'out there' that do highlight what really should be looked at. Of course it still comes down to the individual to choose. Do they just want to believe what they are told or do they want to look further ... as the article finished "How the game ends is up to us"

Many thanks for your comments and thoughts.

All the best Jan

Lowcarb team member said...

Hi Cheryl and many thanks for sharing your thoughts.

To quote you "I wonder how healthy these youngsters will be as they age......" It is my opinion and I think facts will back this statement up that the younger people of today unless there is a drastic change in their diets / menu plans they will not live as long or as healthy as previous generations.

Take my grandparents, my parents and me ... we were bought up on real foods but over the last few decades this has changed to fast foods and highly processed foods which do not do our health any favours.

Even my eating habits had changed, from how I was brought up, and what we had been told was healthy foods in fact wasn't as healthy as we thought. It was somehow ironic it wasn't until Eddie was diagnosed a Type 2 diabetic that made us fully appreciate that what we had been eating as 'healthy foods' was actually making him unwell. The rise with both obesity and Type 2 diabetes is so closely related to eating too many carbs / sugars / refined foods. Eating real whole foods is so much healthier, and we now live the LCHF lifestyle.

Our grandchildren do eat a diet that does not include a high amount of carbs such as cakes, sweet bars, crisps these foods are kept to an absolute minimum. A treat not a daily occurrence. They seem to fully enjoy their whole fresh foods ... I can only hope this will continue for a very long time to come.

Slowly, slowly more people are beginning to realise what Hippocrates once said many, many years ago 'Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.' The real food revolution is gaining momentum.

Many thanks for your comments

All the best Jan