WLF “In All Fairness” Advertorial Appears in National Edition of New York Times

This advertorial was featured on the op-ed page of the NYTs two days ago by the Washington Legal Foundation (tagline, “Advocate for Freedom and Justice”). Rather than share my thoughts on this creative piece of freedom and justice advocacy, here are three reactions from good friends:

  • “Pretty obvious where the money to fund these ads is coming from. I’m so sick and tired of the “freedom” marketing because the companies behind it are the ones taking away any type of choice. lskdjfslkdjflksdjalksdj.”
  • “I like how they condemn alarming catchy phrases and use the term “self-appointed diet overlords” in the same paragraph.”
  • “I’m guessing these guys just pulled their pro-smoking file and just pressed control replace cancer with obesity.”

Actually, I will share just one thought:

“The purported goal — reducing obesity — may be worthy, but their misguided approach will only succeed in enriching these self-appointed diet overlords at the expense of American consumers and their health.”

 

As a self-proclaimed self-appointed diet overlord, I just wanted to say that when I read the sentence above, and then thought about my paycheck, I got a little bummed out that maybe the other self-appointed diet overlords might be getting more enriched than me. I know it is wrong to covet another diet overlord’s income, but here I am wondering if I shouldn’t be charging more per condescending demonization and request tips next time I knock someone’s freedom soda out of their hand and shout “fat bomb” while trolling mall cafeterias. Maybe its time to rethink my pricing structure; “Let’s Sue!” bumper stickers don’t grow on trees, after all.

The WLF Legal Pulse

IAFMay20As part of its Eating Away Our Freedoms project, Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) today placed an advertorial on the op-ed page of the National Edition of The New York Times. WLF first debuted its “In All Fairness” advertorial column in 1998 in The Times, and it has appeared on the newspaper’s op-ed page over 150 times. The Times national edition reaches 75% of America’s population and according to one survey is read by 90% of major newspaper editors.

We encourage you to peruse the Eating Away Our Freedoms site and please consider signing up to receive updates as WLF supplements the site and continues to counter those “public interest” activists, regulators, and lawyers whose approach to reducing obesity enriches them at the expense of their intended beneficiaries.

View original post

Two Coca-Cola documents for your consideration:

Exhibit A:

Coca-Cola’s “Beating Obesity Will Take All of Us” ad published in USA Today on 5/16. In it, Coke promises they will play an important role in the fight against obesity by 1) offering low and no-calorie beverage options in every market, 2) provide transparent nutrition information like featuring calories on the front of all of their packages, 3) help get people moving by supporting physical activity programs in every country where they do business, 4) market responsibility including no advertising to children under 12 anywhere in the world and 5) by “creating awareness around choice, helping consumers make the most informed decisions for themselves and their families, and by inspiring people everywhere to find the fun in the moment.”

Image

If I may, I am going to go ahead and translate:

1) “Offering low and no-calorie beverage options in every market” means sell diet soda where they hadn’t before, increasing sales of both diet and regular soda as a result. For example, while 41% of all Coca-Cola drinks bought in the US are for one of the brand’s low-calorie varieties, in China its estimated that diet drinks account for less than 10% of overall sales, leaving lots of room for growth (source here).

2) Saying “provide transparent nutrition information” when all you mean is “put calorie counts on the front of packages” is like saying “give everyone a new car” when all you mean is “show everyone a commercial for Carmax.com.” Front of pack labeling isn’t applause worthy, it’s becoming the norm in the food industry as food manufacturers are trying to pre-empt the FDA regulation that is being developed on this issue. There is still lots of nutrition information you won’t see on Coke labels, like how drinking one can of soda a day raises diabetes risk by 18% or how adults now consume 13% of their calories in the form of added sugar.

3) “Help get people moving by supporting physical activity programs in every country where we do business” is another way of saying “advertise all over the world in schools and gyms and parks and where ever people come together to do physical activity in their communities,” because you had better believe Coke is not going to host an event without plastering their name everywhere and handing out some of their products. And, while I don’t have the numbers, I am pretty sure that when you compare Coke’s spending on these feel-good activities to their entire operating budget for global marketing, the cost of “supporting physical activity programs” is pretty insignificant, unlike the returns.

A few years ago I spent some time tutoring in an elementary school in South Africa. Coke had graciously paid for the school’s sign in the front of the building, including their logo on the sign, because why be philanthropic if no one know’s whose doing the philanthropy? Unfortunately, the combination of poor diet and lack of proper health coverage in this community meant that many of the kids at the school had seriously rotted baby teeth. I learned later, speaking with a dentist in the States, that while the baby teeth fall out, this sort of damage also impacts the permanent teeth that follow. These kids needed toothbrushes, not soda. But that would have been real philanthropy.

4) “Market responsibly including no advertising to children under 12 anywhere in the world,” except when Coke doesn’t feel like it. See story about the elementary school above as well as Dr. Freedhoff’s article on Coke’s “Santa’s Helper” smart phone game designed for the 4+ crowd here.

And finally, 5) “Creating awareness around choice, helping consumers make the most informed decisions for themselves and their families, and by inspiring people everywhere to find the fun in the moment.” Restated? Corporate speak for blaming consumers for eating too much and moving too little. See previous post on Coke’s anti-chair commercial here.

In case the USA Today ad still has you feeling warm and fizzy about soda and reading this post actually has you thinking about grabbing a can to go with your lunch, here is Exhibit B:

Image

A 2011 document produced by Coca-Cola, detailing the increase in per capita consumption of Coke products in different countries around the world. In the lower left corner are the stats for worldwide consumption. In the two decades between 1991 and 2011, global consumption more than doubled. But in the US, consumption has stayed steady for the last 10 years, even falling slightly. This tells me two things.

1) Coke is in the business of selling Coke and they are very good at what they do. As a profit-making organization, there is no reason to think that they won’t do whatever they can to see Coke consumption double once again over the next 20 years.

2) That doubling isn’t going to take place in the supersaturated States and its going to take more then their low/no-calorie portfolio; Coke will need to focus its marketing of both low/no-calorie and regular beverages overseas to make that happen. Which is why they are happy to take out a whole-page ad in USA Today to brag about their anti-obesity initiatives; they weren’t going to convince American readers to drink an additional regular Coke today anyway.

They call it the “hand-to-mouth platform,” but its definitely still your fault if you are overeating

Image from WSJ.

Image from WSJ.

A few choice quotes from WSJ article, Overeating: The Psychology of Small Packages:

“Hershey Co. learned that individual wrappers on bite-size candy were getting in the way of people eating candy in certain settings, like in the car. The company responded with Reese’s Minis, a small, unwrapped version of its classic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, in a resealable bag. It facilitates “I-can-pop-one-in-my-mouth, on-the-go type of behavior,” says Michele Buck, senior vice president and chief growth officer for Hershey….Sales of unwrapped miniature chocolate rose about 14% in 2012 compared with the previous year, far faster than the 4% growth of miniature, wrapped chocolates, according to Nielsen data compiled for Hershey.”

“People are woefully inept at knowing when to hit the brakes with food. They eat to the bottom of the bowl or bag if that seems like a logical meal or portion size, a behavior dubbed “unit bias” by academics.”

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FOOD (Part 1 of ∞)

OK. So. My excuse for not blogging over the last two weeks is that TOO MANY THINGS. Lame excuse, I know. But for real, I have a 40 pg. document in Word of links to articles that probably only I think are interesting. Has anyone charted what the first 6 months of blogging looks like? I am just going to assume that this stage of wanting to write about everything and getting overwhelmed and going into hiding to watch my favorite Jamie Oliver clips on YouTube was totally normal and now over.

Among the many things I had hoped to share and didn’t get around to were some details on the Consumer Federation of America’s National Food Policy Conference, which I attended in Washington, DC. CFA works to advance pro-consumer policies at the Federal and state level and their annual NFPC brings consumer advocates, food industry and government together in one room to talk about agriculture, food and nutrition policy. The panels tackled so many meaty (ha!) issues —including immigration reform, food waste, and FDA regulation—that I couldn’t come up with any opinions about anything because I was too busy absorbing everything about everything. I learned a lot and want to pass some of the highlight along to you, because what’s the point of having a conference if the juiciest bits never make it out of the Capital Hilton?

Image

For starters, the top sponsors: Cargill, Inc., International Dairy foods Association, Nestlé USA, General Mills, Kraft Foods Group, and Wal-mart.

The conference opened up with Mike Taylor, Deputy Commissioner at the FDA, who, instead of getting to give a boring keynote speech which I think is what he had signed up for, instead got grilled by Helena Bottemiller, an awesome young spunky reporter from Food Safety News in an informal question and answer session. Among the hard-hitting questions: his conflict on interest given his past involvement with Monsanto and what is taking the FDA so long to come out with its really overdue rule-making on menu labeling, food labeling, serving sizes, sodium limits, GMOs, and finalizing the Food and Safety Modernization Act. To his credit, the Deputy Commissioner stuttered through the answer to the first question—saying he has gone on public record and written a number of papers on GMOs that don’t always align with Monsanto’s interests—and pointed to the Office of Management and Budget by way of answering the second. (Want to find out why OMB is behind so many delays in regulation, particularly food regulation? I recommend this great post by my coworker over on Food Day’s blog.)

During the Q&A it also came up that the FDA is pushing to levy inspection fees on the food industry, given the cash crunch from the simultaneous increase in mandate from the Food and Safety Modernization Act and the Federal budget cuts. Industry obviously doesn’t want these fees to happen and has gone on record as saying that “imposing new fees on food facilities would represent a food safety tax on consumers,” since they plan on immediately passing inspection fees along to consumers. This is annoying. E. coli free meat doesn’t grow on trees people! It costs money to keep our nation’s food supply safe, why shouldn’t industries have to shoulder some (all) of that cost? Because, shareholders, quarterly earnings, etc., etc., & blah blah blah. Whatever, I am annoyed.

Another issue on FDA’s table is Front of Pack labeling. If you don’t already know, front of pack labeling refers to any summary of the nutrition fact’s panel on the front of a food product. Here is an example:

Image

Basically it is the new way for companies to mislead consumers about the healthfulness of the foods inside. The only part of a food label that is subject to stringent regulation is the nutrition facts panel. Everything outside of that little white and black box is in food labeling wilderness. You would think the FDA has to sign off on what goes on food labels, both in and out of the nutrition facts panel, before they hit the market, but they don’t. They only really police the market retroactively and no one is actually checking every box of Cocoa Krispies to make sure they aren’t making bogus immunity claims, for example.

Image

The industry has figured out that consumers don’t know this and assume that anything that looks vaguely official looking was approved by the FDA. This is not to say that the front of pack labels are factually incorrect, but they are misleading. The official formatting, green check-marks and selective highlighting of ingredients and nutrition facts are carefully designed to make consumers think a serving size is larger than it actually is, doesn’t contain an unhealthy number of calories or amount of added sugar and that the highlighted fiber or potassium content distracts from the not so nutritious ingredients also lurking inside. The FDA has been slow to catch on, but they finally have, and Mike Taylor came as close as a Federal government employee can to promising that we should expect those regulations to come out within a year. Great quote, paraphrased, from Taylor: “We would like to regulate this kind of labeling so that consumers can find a portion of the front of pack labeling that is actually true.”

After the interview there was a panel on the “Future of Food Shopping and How Consumers are Changing.” An optimistic highlight: one of the panelists explained how over the last 50 years we have gone from shopping at Mom and Pop shops to grocers to supermarkets to hypermarkets (think Target or Wal-Mart) and predicted that the next step will be a return to the Mom and Pop shop. Fingers crossed. To cheer you up even more, here are two examples of exciting initiatives that consumer advocates are working on to make shopping easier for consumers:

  • The Food Trust, pretty much the coolest cat in non-profit nutrition advocacy, has launched a program that labels foods with three different stickers. Red stickers for “less often foods” like soda, orange for “sometimes foods” like juice, and green stickers for “always foods,” like water and low fat milk. That is some front of pack labeling I can get behind.
  • Rudd Center at Yale, which conducts indispensable research on obesity and marketing to children, is pushing a recommendation for supermarkets to offer a “family friendly” aisle in the stores. The aisle would basically have no crap in it, especially not at a children’s eye level. Imagine: a tantrum free shopping experience could be in our future.

Image

During the breakout panels I got to hear about food waste. Man. Reduce, reuse, recycle. We hear the most about that third one, but as eaters and cookers, we really ought to put some thought into the first two. I will put a post about reusing and reducing food on the to-do list. This panel made me think the most about my habits as a consumer and what I can personally do about the food that ends up in my trash at the end of the week. Daunting, but here are some things to be optimistic about:

  • Feeding America has started partnering with farmers and food processing factories to reduce food waste before it ever gets to the supermarket. For example, they recently worked with Del Monte to can the tops and bottoms of their peaches for donation, because these parts of the fruit are usually discarded because they don’t have the same uniform shape as the rest of the peach.
  • No matter how on top of it farmers and shippers and supermarkets are, there is a certain amount of food, called shrink, that will be too damaged to sell at the supermarket. Supermarkets try to offset the costs of these losses by using this damaged produce in creative ways. An apple a little too beat up for the display case goes into the Safeway salad bar and those fancy stuffed chicken breasts at the Whole Foods meat display would have otherwise been trashed. Some people might be worried about food safety issues, but if I would trust anyone to know when to draw the line with perishable foods, it would be the people in the business of buying, stocking and reselling them. I think this reusing of food is brilliant and something the stores should brag more about. Take away lesson? If you can introduce a cost incentive for eliminating food waste, the industry will get creative fast.

And here is a tip for what you can do in your own home:

-‘Sell by’ dates versus ‘best by’ dates. Maybe you know this already, but a refresher won’t hurt, because apparently 60% of Americans are getting it wrong. The ‘best by’ date is not for consumers. It is a message from the producer to the seller (i.e., Kraft’s to Wal-Mart, or Campbell’s to Harris Teeter), promising them that the product will meet the standards of the brand up until that date. Things like crunchiness, color and flavor, which differentiate Kraft’s or Campbell’s from the knockoffs. It is in the best interest of these companies that their products are only sold when they meet these standards to protect their brand’s identity. The ‘best by’ date does not speak to food safety standards, which are what the ‘sell by’ dates indicate (although these aren’t standardized). In the UK, to reduce consumer confusion, they have started hiding the ‘best by’ dates, incorporating the information into the bar code. So if you see a ‘best by’ date, ignore it. As for the ‘sell by’ date, use your best judgment. Please don’t sue me if you get food poisoning, but just give that juice an extra sniff before chucking it down the sink next time, OK?

And then there was lunch. Lunch was ridiculous. I guess it was to be expected because what would a DC conference be without corporate doublespeak? Here is what happened: instead of the hotel catering the way they always do at these kinds of conferences, Nestlé, one of the biggest corporate sponsors, rolled out a four-course meal made up entirely of their frozen dinner lines, Lean Cuisine and Stouffer’s. This wouldn’t have been so bad, except that while we were eating, we had to listen to this pseudo-French chef from Nestlé gargle on and on about how they use the freshest ingredients, have cutting edge culinary advancements, and how together, we can change the way Americans cook and eat. Calling bullshit wasn’t an option, so I started counting the ingredients in these oh-so-fresh-and-healthy convenience foods on the boxes Nestlé has kindly left displayed at each of the tables. Between the Thai spring rolls (minus the salsa); southwest grilled chicken salad (minus the SALAD); coconut-crusted salmon filet with ginger-lemongrass sauce, grilled pineapple and mango; and the Harvest apples I counted 139 ingredients. 139. The salad (again, minus the actual lettuce) had the most ingredients at 53.

Image

I was so grumpy from the lame food and patronizing corporate nonsense that I spent the next panel doodling on one of Nestlé’s stupid brochures for their new “balance your plate” initiative.

Image  I am sorry Nestlé, but you guys can’t be in on the conversation about a healthier America because your food has no place on a balanced plate. I’m not going to take you seriously, no matter what you do and no matter what you say, unless it’s the truth. Just be honest. You are the world’s largest food and drinks maker, in 2012 you posted 11.55 billion in profits, you are in the business of unhealthy food, and if it means you get to feed Lean Cuisine to a captive audience of a couple hundred and talk about your initiatives for 40 minutes, sponsoring these kinds of conferences pays for itself.

After lunch, there was an incredible panel about immigration reform and its impact on our food landscape. A lot to cover here, and I still need to do my homework on the background, so I am going to save the heart of the conversation for another post. One thing I will mention, because it came up both on this panel and a panel on the impact of natural disasters on our food supply was the following: when you buy a $10 six-pack of beer, 6 cents goes back to the farmer. The rest goes to marketing, packaging, and all the fancy additives and processing techniques that go into most modern foods before they make it to your table. Because this isn’t just about beer—over all, very little profit made from food and beverage sales in this country go back to the farmer. Even for milk, which you would think ends up on your table largely thanks to the farmer, only about 25% of the profits make it back to the farm, since most farmers have to pay to get the milk to the processing plant.

This is, on one hand, bullshit for the farmer. Their services are worth more, and it makes it awfully hard to convince Americans that farming is a viable career when food profits never make it back to the farm. And we need more farmers. A move away from a reliance on industrialized agriculture and a return to smaller, diversified farms will benefit farmers, our health, and the environment. On the other hand, all that marketing, packaging and additives protect consumers from volatile food prices. If the price of wheat doubles because of drought, or a late spring or wet fall, the price of your beer won’t double if only 6 cents was tied to the price of the wheat in the first place. Instead, the price will only go up by a few cents. Now I’m pretty shaky on matters of national finance and I don’t know what this tradeoff means from a policy perspective, so if there are any econ dorks (sorry, scholars) reading this who want to weigh in, by all means.

The conference also included a debate on sugar sweetened beverages. Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of CSPI, was on the panel along with a professor from the Food and Environment program at Tufts University, and my new favorite shit-stirrer, Harold Goldstein, Executive Director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (favorite quote: metaphor equating the oil BP dumped into the Gulf Coast with the sugar the soda industry is ‘dumping’ into the American market place). And somehow, someone managed to get Susan Neely, President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Beverage Association on this panel of liberal public health advocates and academics. OK, I’m super biased against the soda industry and was unlikely to like anyone the ABA sent. Also, being outnumbered 3 to 1 on a panel is going to make anyone look bad. But seriously, you would think that the President and CEO of the ABA would be an eloquent and powerful advocate for the soda industry. Instead, she was crazy-pants, very antagonistic and very unconvincing. She played the mom card HARD, which is unnecessary when no one in the room is in any way suggesting that being a mom and keeping your family healthy is easy. When asked why vending machines exist in schools, she stuttered, saying the schools benefit financially and it’s entirely up to schools to decide what they sell. The valid point was made that arguing that schools benefit financially from soda sales makes no sense, because the money is coming from the kids, so they might as well just pass around a hat for collections.

The last panel covered “Food Issues in the Age of Social Media.” Take away: industry is scared of millennials. Don’t underestimate the power of your tweet or Facebook post, these large corporations are finally listening and recognize that we as a demographic have no patience for misleading messaging or the withholding of important information.

Finally, Senator Mark Pryor, Chairman of the subcommittee on agriculture, rural development, FDA and related agencies, showed up for 15 minutes and used words like “stakeholder,” “bipartisan compromise,” and “community collaboration,” and was very successful in actually saying absolutely nothing.

After the conference ended I went out to lunch with a vegetarian and a vegan to this place called Lincoln (slogan: Food for the people by the people), a farm to seasonal-small-plate restaurant and had a salmon burger and some Brussels spouts. WHAT IS MY LIFE. And then a week later, that is to say, two days ago, I met Michael Pollan and we made eye contact and it was magical and I will tell you about it in my next post.

Phew.

Seriously FDA, do you do ANYTHING?

“We have worked very hard to sort of figure out what really makes sense and also what is implementable.”

‘Sort of figure out’? Strong words from the FDA, justifying the three-year delay in finalizing a rule that will specify where and how nutritional information will be displayed on menus. Also, pretty sure ‘implementable’ is not a word.

A little background–the FDA is currently (read: for over two years) working to issue final menu-labeling rules governing how restaurants will provide nutrition information to consumers. The rules will affect companies with 20 or more locations operating under the same brand name.

969f60678adda260e19f851b4c91e0e2

So next time you, the consumer, are trying to decide if it would be healthier to eat one order of Bistro Shrimp Pasta from The Cheesecake Factory, or three orders of Lasagna Classico plus an order of tiramisu from Olive Garden, you would be empowered to make an informed decision. Well with both options at over 3,000 calories, neither decision is a great one, but if you were counting calories, go with the lasagnas. (Don’t believe me? This and other insane calorie revelations here.)

Document4

So if its going to help you, the consumer, and any other American trying to navigate a restaurant menu without totally blowing their recommended caloric intake for the day, why the delay? Well, according to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, “There are very, very strong opinions and powerful voices both on the consumer and public health side and on the industry side” and the issue “has gotten extremely thorny.”

Translation? The National Restaurant Association doesn’t want these rules finalized. Mississippi probably doesn’t want them finalized either. And the restaurants definitely don’t want the menu labeling rules finalized (although if they are finalized, they do want groceries and convenient stores to be regulated too, because less federal regulation is more, unless your competitors aren’t also being regulated…).

Why are these powerful interests against menu labeling? Because it would be a cost on business owners to tweak their menus. But let’s not forget that we are talking about companies with 20 or more locations. These are not your struggling Mom & Pop shops, and we aren’t exactly asking for space age innovation in food.

Bottom line: FDA, maybe its time to, you know, sort of figure it out?

Now whether this will all actually result in accurate menu labeling is a question for another day…

Well maybe the board wouldn't be this big if McDonalds stopped using 117 ingredients in its McWraps...

Well maybe the board wouldn’t be this big if McDonalds stopped using 117 ingredients in its McWraps…

The Vegan Conspiracy to Destroy Fast Food, Tradition & America

Excellent article from Mark Bittman today on the future of fast food. Fingers crossed that the next ten years will bring more options and less compromises, more tempeh and less additives, more veggies and fewer calories and absolutely no more of this or this.

Keep demanding these things from food providers, and maybe we can one day live in a world where real food is affordable food and eating meals made up of ingredients you can count on your fingers is no longer a privilege predicated on wealth.

If you don’t get around to reading the article,* here’s Bittman’s conclusion:

“Good Fast Food doesn’t need to be vegan or even vegetarian; it just ought to be real, whole food. The best word to describe a wise contemporary diet is flexitarian, which is nothing more than intelligent omnivorism. There are probably millions of people who now eat this way, including me…. My advice would be to skip the service and the wine, make a limited menu with big flavors and a few treats and keep it as cheap as you can. Of course, there are huge players who could do this almost instantaneously.

But the best thing they seem able to come up with is the McWrap or the fresco menu. In the meantime, I’m throwing out a few recipes to the entire fast-food world (here, here and here) to help build a case that it’s possible to use real ingredients to create relatively inexpensive, low-calorie, meat-free, protein-dense, fast food. If anyone with the desire can produce this stuff in a home kitchen, then industry veterans financed by private equity firms should be able to produce it at scale in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the price. You think people won’t eat it? There’s a lot of evidence that suggests otherwise.”

1) Does anyone want to make some Bittman black bean burgers and mexican chocolate shakes with me?

2) Does anyone happen to know some private equity firms that would back me on a healthy, cheap, amazing fast food (ad)venture? Maybe call it Burger Bliss? Burger Queen? Any takers?

* Its ok, I won’t tell. After spending some time on the numbers (WordPress tells you how many times readers click on each link), I’ve determined that you guys need more summaries, catchy titles and barely relevant goofy photos and less reading. If I could coax you here with puppies you know I would.

Livid.

How can this woman be so skinny and drink so much Coke? Because, no chairs!

How can this woman be so skinny and drink so much Coke? Because, no chairs!

Catch this new fight-against-obesity ad by the fight-against-obesity experts over at Coca-Cola?

Hey Coca-Cola, how come one in every three American kids are overweight or obese and two in every three American adults are overweight or obese, but LITERALLY every person in your commercial is slim?

Also, NO. Don’t blame the chairs. You are embarrassing yourself. Seriously. Go away.

Too frustrated to write about all the ways the corporate speak in this commercial makes me want to punch The Man in the face, so instead I will post CSPI’s parody of Coca-Cola’s first anti-obesity commercial, which premiered during this year’s Superbowl. 

What about the other 112 ingredients? Fooducate does some sleuthing on the new McDonalds McWraps

Another piece on the new “taste of freshness” McDonalds McWraps from the folks over at Fooducate (which is, by the way, an awesome resource for the next time you find yourself in a grocery aisle trying to decipher a nutrition label. I recommend you get the app). The article breaks down the nine one hundred and twenty one ingredients in the new McWrap.

Among the many things we project onto food labels:

“A label that says protein has what researchers call a “health halo effect” that goes beyond just the promise of protein.”

“A mother believes food with protein will give her child energy before soccer practice and help her lose weight by making her feel full, according to consumer research from several large food companies including Kraft, Kellogg Co. and General Mills. An office worker sees an energizing snack that is better than candy at 4 p.m. A weight lifter sees a way to build muscle. They all see it as healthy.”

“Another example of the health halo effect: Shoppers often react to labels in illogical ways. When viewing food labeled organic, consumers give those foods lots of other attributes like having fewer calories and being more nutritions.”

via Why Protein Is the New It Ingredient – WSJ.com.

Dear Fellow Millennials, in case you were wondering, this is the reputation we have purchased:

You can almost hear Foster the People playing when you look at it long enough.

According to McDonalds Has a Millennial Problem, a great AdAge article from today which I recommend you read in its entirety,

“Here are some common themes and values held dear among all Millennials:

Fresh and organic food: Millennials place an emphasis on the importance of organic and fresh food. Fast-casual chains do well with the demo because many of them promote a fresh or organic message.

Variety and customizable products: In the food world, millennials appreciate the ability to build their meals from an array of choices. Chains like Chipotle and Subway do well in this regard because each item is made to order.

Social change: Millennials care about social issues and tend to support companies that are actively helping address problems across the globe.

Sustainability: Particularly with food, millennials value companies that are proactive with sustainable farming practices and are environmentally conscious.

Social-savvy brands: Brands that have active Facebook and Twitter pages and engage in conversations with customers tend to have more long-term support from millennials.”

In the ongoing question of whether consumers, corporations or the government are responsible for improving our food landscape, this is good news for anyone who wants to be a part of the solution using the space between their fork and knife.

While I’m proud to know that as an aggregate these are the values my generation is looking for and that companies are listening, I still think that food producers that only think about the bottom line are not totally beyond reproach and the government as regulatory body is definitely not redundant.

So Millennials may be empowered to demand food from more ethical sources (although probably not, given the lack of transparency with significant portions of the supply line, like CAFOs and wages paid to migrant workers). But many of us are also demanding healthy food that is actually healthy, and companies are not delivering. They are not delivering because they can get away with producing food labeled as healthy that actually isn’t. For example, these guysthese guysthese guys, oh and these guys.

The argument that “industry always only supplies what consumers demand and so its on consumers to demand ethical and healthy foods” falls apart so long as food corporations keep labeling their products with misleading health claims and the FDA doesn’t do anything about it.

And yeah, sorry to bear the bad news, but eating butter probably won’t help you with your cholesterol, drinking sugar-water won’t help you sleep, eating cookies isn’t the same as eating spinach, and drinking vegetable juice that has been totally stripped of all its naturally occurring nutrients and fibers and has then had artificial fibers added back in isn’t the same as eating a tomato. Just eat the tomato.

Tomato-global