You may have seen the video of a Monsanto advocate looking like a fool after saying glyphosate, was not harmful to humans and “he’d be happy to” drink a glass, only to panic and refuse the journalist’s offer to take a sip. His hypocrisy revealed that these corporations are making false claims and are trying to trick us into believing their spin.
In reality, glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s weed killer Round Up, was just deemed by the World Health Organization to probably cause cancer, which is far from being “not harmful to humans.” Big Food, the collective of companies that control the majority of the world’s food, has been playing us for a fool. Here are 5 of the ways, so you’ll never be fooled again.
Companies Market “Natural” as if it Means Something
This is one of the most successful myths Big Food has put out there. The FDA actually has no definition of natural, and therefore no requirements on what products can bear this claim. Food containing High Fructose Corn Syrup, GMOs, and other far from natural ingredients are able to be labeled “all natural.” Consumers falsely believe “natural” means it is somehow better than a product that doesn’t state this claim.
This video from Only Organic pokes fun at the topic, but it’s dead on. Certified organic food must obey strict guidelines to be able to use the “organic” claim and this is one of the many reasons to eat organic. If Big Food can successfully market “natural” in this way, who’s to say their other claims aren’t just as false?[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]
Speaking of false claims, the New York Times points out “the rules of commercial speech allow companies to say things that are meaningless.” Although claims like “reduces cholesterol” and “heart healthy” may be based on science, the food inside the box isn’t likely to live up to those labels. Often the amount of the beneficial ingredient is so minimal it would require excessive servings to get the needed intake. In addition, the health claims are usually from research funded by the very company seeking to gain a profit from a healthier appearing product. Avoid the marketing schemes and just look at the ingredients and nutritional information for a clearer picture of what your food contains.
Food Corporations are Targeting Your Kids
This certainly isn’t a secret. Just turn on the television or walk down the aisles of the grocery store and you’ll see cartoon characters, prizes, and all sorts of marketing to children. Big Food’s predatory marketing has been going on for years. For example, big cereal brands Kellogg’s and General Mills are plastered with iconic mascots and athletes in an attempt to push their product. Those cereals contain toxic ingredients that can cause serious side-effects and health problems.
Even though the marketing is in plain sight, the effects these companies are having on our children is less obvious. The American Academy of Pediatrics “considers advertising directly to young children to be inherently deceptive, and exploits children under the age of 8 years.” These companies are deceiving our children and counting on the naivety of both parent and child to boost profits. Look at these 10 processed foods to never feed your kids and you’ll see blatant marketing slapped on a product loaded with sugar, GMOs, artificial colors, MSG, and more. Children have difficulty separating reality from make believe, and repeated exposure to marketing can result in children having a strong connection with a brand or it’s mascot. Our own Mamavation founder developed an eating disorder as a child and associated the Happy Meals she ate with actual happiness. Public health lawyer, Michele Simon reveals “ninety-one percent of ads for sugary cereals viewed by children were found to violate CARU’s guideline not to exploit children’s imaginations or mislead children about the benefits of using a product by associating sugary cereals with adventure, emotional appeals, play and fun.”
The bottom line is, no matter how hard we try as parents to do what is right for our kids, big food is undermining our efforts by spending billions to lure them in. Yes, we as parent’s are the ones making the purchases, but simply saying “no” isn’t always effective. A study by Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health says excessive child marketing elicits the “nag factor.” The mother’s in the study “cited packaging, characters, and commercials as the three main forces compelling their children to nag.” One of the many ways of dealing with the nagging was for mothers to give in to make the repeated nagging stop, although it was ineffective at ending the behavior.
Big Food isn’t just trying to fool you in the grocery store aisle, they’re also tricking you online. The internet and social media have shaped up to be powerful tools, and corporations are working to ensure they can flex their power in this realm. However, their tactics have changed. Instead of Big Food making the claims themselves, they have created a virtual army to promote their message. This practice is called astroturfing, which The Guardian defined as “the attempt to create an impression of widespread grassroots support for a policy, individual, or product, where little such support exists.” It’s actually used frequently for political campaigns to chalk up support for a party or candidate. Astroturfing can apply to any arena that could benefit from an appearance of widespread approval.[/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]
This strategy has come to light recently after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked classified documents to the public in 2013. Among those documents, which were published online, were details on how to become an corporate internet troll. These corporations literally pay people to spread and defend their unpopular message in online conversations. In addition, they build up their social media numbers with fake or paid followers who add to the illusion that the corporation is well liked and supported. It’s a very complex scheme, which our own Gina Badalaty thoroughly investigated in her piece Internet Trolls: Online Nuisance or Corporate Shills? She shares this example of a troll commenting on a post entitled Monsanto Teaching a Health Class In a School Near You?
As our own voices of opposition against big food corporations get louder, the corporations fight back with these tactics. There is a lot of money in Big Food and behind their efforts to upkeep a positive image. Be wary of of trusting the comments section and those trying to steer the conversation in the opposite direction. They may be a hired henchmen.
Big Food Puts Their Money Where Your Health is
When you’ve got millions, or even billions of dollars in profits you can pretty much buy anything–even science. What exactly does it mean to buy science? The Center for Food Safety defines as “paying for research, hiring scientific experts as spokespeople, placing science stories in media, all without disclosing the conflict of interest.”
An example of this is The Coca Cola Company and their Beverage Institute For Health and Wellness. The soda company, which makes $8.6 billion in sheer profit each year, created this organization to dispel the idea that Coca Cola products are harmful. In addition, the beverage institute educates health professionals, dietitians, and others on a number of topics that pertain to the product’s safety. The information and materials provided to these people in charge of our health is bias because it is funded by Coca Cola. They stand to gain from health care professionals thinking favorably of their products.
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It’s important to view these materials as opportunities for positive and free publicity under the guise of “education” for both RDs and consumers. Dietitians working in clinical settings or as independent practitioners are an important vehicle through which many consumers become educated on how to eat healthfully.-Michele Simon of Eat Drink Politics
The money of Big Food goes even deeper into the pockets of the health organizations. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics list of loyal sponsors is riddled with corporate food brands. It calls into question the objectivity of a health professional’s opinion really when they are sponsored by a processed food brand.
Big Food Claims it’s Too Costly to Label or Reformulate
With the increase in ballot measures fighting for GMO labeling popping up across the country, much of the money from Big Food has been spent trying to defeat them. Ads funded against our right to know what’s in our food claim it would be a difficult and costly process to label foods and the cost would ultimately be passed onto the consumer. However, their foods are already labeled in other countries. In Europe any genetically modified ingredient much be identified. Besides, packaging costs are a regular part of the production budget as they are routinely updated.
With mandatory labeling overseas, many brands have reformulated their foods to be GMO free. If Big Food can make these alternative versions for other countries, why can’t it be done here? Clearly they are still turning a profit in Europe with their products. Take this Uncle Ben’s rice package, it’s contains no genetically modified ingredients, unlike the version sold here in the U.S.
We Can Demand Change
The good news is our voices are being heard and Big Food is suffering from the consumer’s skepticism. Campbell’s CEO says the distrust of big food makers is a problem that’s growing. Profits are dropping and the company recently announced $200 million dollars in annual cuts. With our knowledge of how these companies operate, we can avoid being fooled by their false claims and deceptive marketing. We can impact the big food companies by putting pressure on them to change their ways, and their food.
Have you been fooled by Big Food?[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]