Oct. 16, 2011 It’s Blog Action Day today which coincides with United Nations’ World Food Day, so my contribution among 80 countries participating is about food policy, profiteering and public health. Follow Twitter’s hashtag #BAD11for more food topics
Sibling scuffles often end with a thunderous “Enough! Someone’s gonna get hurt” scolding from a parent, so maybe it’s time “we the people” start treating food policy and practices in this country like petulant toddlers who want their own way?
“Because I Said So” is looking as viable as any governmental mandate lately, since spineless regulatory watchdogs continue bending to corporate lobbyists dismissing the will of the voters who have asked repeatedly to pass reasonable nutrition guidelines to stop marketing junk food to children.
As I wince and worry about the massive escalation of “Occupy Wall Street” with that “Someone’s gonna get hurt” refrain, I keep thinking of how the same dollar-driven protest frustrations calling out greed, corruption, and monopolies also applies to kids’ food marketing, schools and education, obesity intervention in health care, and flawed checks and balances from chasing the almighty greenback comes at the expense of our society.
There’s a huge difference in “what they say, vs. what they do” when it comes to using media literacy to spot the spin and deconstruct the rhetoric of food and beverage industry giants. (Commercial Alert also just spotted this HuffPo media literacy piece on junk food messaging contradictions by Donald Cohen of the Cry Wolf Project)
…Those protests apply across the board in health, education and food arenas in terms of who’s being hurt the most in trickle down impact.
I met a diabetic cartoonist at the Health2.0 innovation conference who literally forced herself to marry a guy to get health care coverage and afford insulin for her Type1 treatments. I’ve seen kids sob not getting a transfer into decent public schools like a scene from The Lottery film.
And I’m thoroughly disgusted by the duplicity and disconnects of “the obesity epidemic” being undermined by corporate interests who work tirelessly to “undo” any smidge of headway we gain. (Grocery Manufacturer’s Assn 48pp pdf, response to FTC guidelines)
Time and again reasonable legislation is put forth to curb cruddy cues that plug unhealthy foods only to have legal beagles sic their dogs on Washington to snarl and intimidate Congress to back down in the name of “unsupported allegations of causation.” Bah.
How about some greater good common sense, people? (see Prevention Institute’s sobering stats on the $2 billion a year kids’ marketing industry, CCFC’s food marketing to kids fact sheet for a quick debrief, or CSPI’s fabulous Food Day resources and action kit)
Dig a little deeper in the polit-bureau of food marketing to kids debates and here’s what you find in media and marketing…Hmn, let’s see…
Viacom, the ANA, and leading food companies unleashed a lobbying blitz at the White House, Congress, FTC to kill off the proposed scientific-based guidelines when marketing to kids/teens by well-known First Amendment attorney Kathleen Sullivan—(w/corp ties having Disney, Time Warner, Google, the Motion Picture Academy, Yahoo etc) AND as part of the new food and media biz lobbying machine, they hired Anita Dunn, Obama’s former head of communication, to run a so-called new coalition called (wait for it!) Sensible Food Policy.org.
The “Sensible Food Policy” legal beagles (aka corporate industry food giants, note their site has no “who we are” section, just a “what we’re doing” section!) not only placed a deep political chill on the Interagency Working Group on Foods Marketed to Children (IWG comprised of the White House, FTC , CDC, FDA, USDA) but the lift of the veil reveals the “150 trade associations” behind “Sensible Food Policy” include PepsiCo, Viacom, Kellogg’s, General Mills, Time Warner, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, and the Association of National Advertisers!
In the “Occupy Madison Avenue” quadrant of my mind, I’m thinking there’s nothing ‘debatable’ about selling off children’s health for a buck since it’s proven repeatedly that mining innocents (minds and bodies in childhood) is truly just a slam dunk easy biz dev opportunity…
Parents keep thinking it’s ‘been handled’ and roll their eyes with exasperation being constantly undermined with new tactics deployed that skirt the fringe of legality and use loopholes to ‘get to the kids’…
Even formerly trusted sources get a double-take from those of us with whiplash trying to figure out ‘which team’ these corporate giants are playing on, like a shell game of ‘catch me if you can.’
No one is saying parents can’t buy junk food, the movement is simply asking manufacturers to quit undermining with workarounds off the radar! (see the entire site DigitalAds.org to get a feel for how this transpires online, and visit the ‘updates’ section regularly for new tactics aimed at kids)
As I’ve said before (pet peeve alert here) there’s nothing worse than being asked to work hands-on in the trenches with ‘at risk’ children in Title One schools to counter-market copious quantities of junk food misinformation sold to working class families (yes SunnyD/Scholastic, looking at you) only to have some “big food” industry corporate shill ‘partner’with in-school avenues to not just expose kids, but INCENTIVIZE them to eat and drink sugary slop for new free books and classroom parties? Bah. (yes, they’ve had a wrist slap via CCFC’s actions and cut in-school marketing 40% but still have a stronghold)
How ’bout we look through the lens of long term impact and health care costs over short term fiscal gain and stop undermining the work being put forth with sneaky sidewinders that put kids in the blast zone of very real life morbidity outcomes of lifestyle cancers?
Today on Blog Action Day, read through some of the global participants’ stories about food insecurity and agricultural impact of big business policies that are fouling up the food chain far beyond America’s shores. That’s right, we’re exporting our toxic policies and practices abroad to seep into other cultures. Just ducky…
What can you do?
Start by “occupying your mind” and taking action when you smell a rat in media and marketing…Accountability. Responsibility. Wallet-whacking. Fiscal pressure. Get informed.
Stop letting it all be brushed under the carpet with a helpless shoulder shrug for the next round of pass the buck politics and take a stand everyday with what you buy, what you do, who you support.
I’ll be writing more on Food Day, Oct 24, 2011 as part of the EAT REAL campaign. Hope you’ll join me to pay it forward, for kids health worldwide.
Related Reading On Shaping Youth by Amy Jussel
Junk Food, Marketing To Kids