Though producers of junk food claim they want to steer children towards more healthful choices, the fact is that more and more children suffer from overweight or obesity problems.
Wellness initiatives like Smart Spot are just marketing ploys. Makers of popular junk foods have an obligation to stockholders to encourage kids to eat more of the foods that fuel their profits, says David Ludwig, a pediatrician and the co-author of a commentary published in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association.
David Ludwig and article co-author Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University, both of whom have long histories of tracking the food industry have highlighted 10 things that junk food makers don’t want you to know about their products and how they promote them
- Junk food makers spend billions in advertising unhealthy foods to kids. According to the Federal Trade Commission, food makers spend some $1.6 billion annually to reach children through the traditional media as well the Internet, in-store advertising, and sweepstakes.
- The studies that food producers support tend to minimize health concerns associated with their products.
- Junk food makers donate large sums of money to professional nutrition associations.
The American Dietetic Association, for example, accepts money from companies such as Coca-Cola, to get access to decision makers in the food and nutrition marketplace via ADA events and programs.
- More processing means more profits, which makes the food less healthy.
High-profit products are generally high in calories and low in nutritional value.
- Less-processed foods are generally more satiating than their highly processed counterparts. While processing nutrients are lost and sugar or other sweeteners are added to increase calories.
- Many supposedly healthy replacement foods are hardly healthier than the foods they replace. In 2006 the industry mounted intense lobbying effort that persuaded lawmakers to allow sports drinks and vitamin waters, despite their slightly healthier reputations to pack with sugar and calories.
- A health claim on the label doesn’t necessarily make a food healthy.
Health claims such as “zero trans fats” or “contains whole wheat” create false impression that a product is healthy when it’s not.
- Food industry pressure has made nutritional guidelines confusing.
As Nestle explained in Food Politics, the food industry has a history of preferring scientific jargon to straight talk.
- The food industry funds front groups that fight anti-obesity public health initiatives.
Unless you follow politics closely, you wouldn’t necessarily realize that a group with a name like the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) has anything to do with the food industry.
- The food industry works aggressively to discredit its critics.
The bottom line, says Nestle, is quite simple – Eat less, include more fruits and vegetables, and limit junk food.