Tag Archives: Marion Nestle

Coca-Cola and Their Obesity Response

Riffing off of Marion Nestle’s recent post about Coca-Cola, marketing, and obesity, I think that it’s not a problem that Coca-Cola should be a participant in the conversation about the growing of America’s waistline. Hell, the more companies involved in such discussions, the better off we would all be.

That being said, the Coca-Cola company, nor any corporation for that matter, should solely drive the discussion, at least not without chance of proper questions to be asked of them and their own presumed culpability in the matter.

There in lies the dissonance. Companies like Coca-Cola don’t want a dialogue. It might put the company at risk, which in turn, puts their stock at risk, something that is a big no-no in the corporate world. It’s far, far better, from their point of view, to get in front of the debate, and lead it in the direction where questions surrounding their marketing, health claims, and pricing strategies simply do not get asked.

The result of this is silliness such as Coke’s Live Positively website, designed to give the impression that they care about the obesity issue. Yet, if you look around this site, the one unequivocal answer to helping consumers reduce caloric intake, i.e. drink less soda, is not mentioned once.

In fact, the opposite is true. Looking at their section on Active Healthy Living, Coke promotes guiding principles: Think, Drink, and Move. You’ll note that “Drink” comes before “Move”. You’ll also note that when clicking on the “Drink” link, it takes you to one of their many branding pages, where they boast of their “500 beverage brands inclusive of more than 3,500 beverages”, many of which are no where near what one would consider a healthy choice for consumption.

I’ve said this before about McDonald’s, and it holds true for Coca-Cola: Creating an illusion that their products are healthy is a difficult one to maintain in the long run. When your primary product is sugar water, and you major goal for your sugar water is to have people consume it in excess, it’s difficult to hold the position that Coke’s interest is equitable to the interest of those trying to be healthy.

It has to be a difficult position for Coke to be in. After all, they can’t just say that their products are little more than empty calories. They can’t imply that their beverages are little more than an affordable luxury item. But this is exactly what they are. They have the science to prove it. As do we.

They know this. They just can’t say it. And when a company cannot be free to speak to the facts when engaging in dialogue, for fear of adversely affecting their stock prices, they become a dishonest broker of information in the national discussion.

Not so fast on the recent HFCS study

So…that HFCS study from Princeton that gives credibility to the idea that High Fructose Corn Syrup is evil?

Yeah, not so much.

Marion Nestle (Yes, THAT Marion Nestle) says this isn’t the magic bullet, and in fact, the study in of itself may have flaws.

Although the authors say calorie intake was the same, they do not report calories consumed nor do they discuss how they determined that calorie intake was the same. This is an important oversight because measuring the caloric intake of lab rats is notoriously difficult to do (they are messy).

As for me? I’m done looking for this evidence in the news. I don’t like HFCS and avoid it when possible. It added more sugar to our American diet that was already sugar-laden at the time it was introduced. Beyond that? I don’t know, and more importantly, no one else has provided substantial evidence of “teh evils” of HFCS versus excessive consumption of cane sugar. Proof may be out there somewhere, and we may someday learn that HFCS may be the singular cause of everything from diabetes to stigmata, but my default position from here on out is that we have simply too much of it in our diet. Period.

Wake me when we have real proof of otherwise.

What to eat – Marion Nestle

Marion Nestle is one of my favorite writers and food thinkers. Her book “Food Politics” is the first book I believe everyone should read if they want to understand the influence agri-business and food corporations have on the Federal Government, especially the USDA and FDA.

She has a new book and is making the rounds doing interviews, including a recent one at Epicurious.com.It is here where she states two things that are the foundation of my own food beliefs.

You can describe a healthy diet in ten words: “Eat less, move more, eat lots of fruits and vegetables.” If that’s not enough, add “Go easy on junk foods.”

Note her choice of words here. She’s not saying “This is how you lose weight”, rather she is saying “This is a healthy diet”, a distinction that is quite important.

Second point:

No single food is good or bad: We’re designed to eat a variety of things…Remember that all over the world people grow, flourish, and do well as long as they get enough calories and variety. Marketers want you to think you have to eat their product to be healthy, but that makes no sense from a biological standpoint.

It’s a simple concept, but one that’s often forgotten when blindsinded by all the food marketers and press.

If you haven’t read Marion Nestle, you really should.

Technorati Tags: Marion Nestle, Food

New Food Guidelines and Politics

Yeah, I’m a bit off the beaten path today. But it’s still something that I think needs to be said…

New food guidelines have been released by the United States Department of Agriculture. You can view them yourself here. If you have Adobe Reader, you can read the consumer brochure here.

The Food Pyramid is nowhere to be seen, although Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said her department was still discussing whether to continue using the pyramid format. It’s replaced by a page that doesn’t list food in a hierarchical format. The reason for that?

If you’ve read Food Politics by Marion Nestle, you’ll know why this occured. The process in which these standards are developed are vetted heavily by corporations and lobby groups. If a standard says “Eat less beef” (which is kind of a good thing), the beef industry tends to get a little upset. Hence the lobbying to make beef seem less bad than say…vegetables.
So when you hear the news about this in the coming days, keep in mind the process it took to create this.