Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mommas Take Care of Yo Babies

You probably noticed this article in the New York Times today about the regulation of marketing horrible, disgusting, unhealthy food products to children and teenagers. The Federal Trade Commission came out with their report today on it. Basically, if you are unfamiliar with the marketing scene, there is very little regulation. I read an entire book called Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health by Marion Nestle (professor at NYU) all about this exact thing; how, basically, what happens is the government imposes bogus, pathetic and weak regulations on food companies to sort of, kind of hinder them from directly targeting kids and teens, but there is little to no enforcement and, above all, they really make their own rules. It's a travesty. It's actually a travesty. From Gawker:

A bunch of big huge evil food companies got together and formed a group and promised to either not advertise to kids, or only advertise products to kids that are "good" for them. Then these companies individually decided for themselves what it means to advertise to kids, and what food is "good." With predictable results! Here are some products you should be aware are good for your babies:
Apple Jacks, Froot Loops, Corn Pops, Burger King's macaroni and cheese. Mmm! Plus, some companies say an ad only "targets children" if more than half of its audience is made up of kids under age 12. So 51% 13-year-olds and 49% toddlers, go right ahead with that bacon double cheeseburger ad!

So, broken promises, broken records from food companies and the government and we all know that it just comes down to the bottom line. Do companies really care about kids? Your kids? If they did, they would stop making soda altogether (the soft drink industry is the biggest marketer to kids and teens), because there is absolutely nothing about it that has any nutritional value. At all. Nothing. I worked at a marketing firm for four months and it is unbelievable the levels to which they have this down to a science--there is even a complete demographic outline for things about "Gen Y" and "Millenials" (that's what they call kids and young kids) to tell you precisely where their Achilles heel is. It's sick.

It's something that really drives me into being a nutritionist, because in a sense, you almost feel that people from a very young age are absolutely up against it. If they do not have the proper direction and people to show them their way through these dark tunnels, to shield them from the bombs of purely capitalistic marketing tactics and when they are even given shit food in their schools, what can you expect them to know about what is good for them? What can you expect them to eat? If I give Alice Waters any credit, it is for traveling the country moralizing on the fact that it MUST start early and be a vital part of a child's upbringing, to start in the schools, as she says.

But, teaching kids eco-gastronomy, on a pandemic level, despite how much they love to work in the kitchen and the garden, is a challenging undertaking. It's much easier to have graphic designers draw shitty cartoon characters and slap them on cereal boxes that contain basically sugar and corn. There are 17,000 new products a year introduced into the food industry market. How many national or worldwide programs are there that pop up every year to counter this? Granted, this is not utilitarianism (it's fucking capitalism), but more must be done, in proportion. And, as Waters said, getting parents to realize that paying for good food might be expensive, but it's more important than buying your kids Nikes--the implications of good food choices are many, as we know.

I am just preaching/regurgitating the advice of my idols. But whatever. It's true.

Anyway, check out the articles as I await Nestle's take on it on her blog.

1 comment:

mikal said...

Is this "Let them eat cake" disinterest or Phillip Morris evil? We vote with our dollars now for everything (except for American Idol). So where is the money going to come from to launch this campaign to put up the Obama of smart food for the kids? Maybe these two generations will remain lost, but their sallow faces, rotting teeth and bones might serve as a reminder for the next.