Jumbie Posted February 19, 2002 Share Posted February 19, 2002 Well, Nick's fond of postoing Onion articles. I'll post NYtimes artivles. Some of you may remember the MacD vs BK argument in fight club. Apparently though, they're already allies in a war on our waistlines and heart valves February 19, 2002 An `Eat More' Message For a Fattened America By MARY DUENWALD Dr. Marion Nestle brought out her newest toy, a bright red and yellow McDonald's Deluxe Mealtime Set. She hadn't even opened it, but you could see all 37 molded plastic pieces through the cellophane box top. There were toy burgers and fries, toy hash browns and McNuggets, toy chocolate chip cookies, even toy packets of ketchup and sweet and sour sauce. "This whole box was only $9!" she exclaimed, as if proud to have spotted a bargain. "Isn't it fun? It's adorable!" But she quickly dropped the sarcasm and got to the point: "It's advertising, and I paid for it. If it was cigarettes, people would be appalled." The Mealtime Set is the newest in the collection of food-themed toys, including M&M plush dolls, Coca-Cola Barbie and "The Oreo Cookie Counting Book" in Dr. Nestle's closet. Marketing to children, she contends, is but one of many ways the food industry encourages Americans to eat non- nutritious food, and to eat it in enormous quantities. The efforts, Dr. Nestle contends, contribute to the fattening of America. Thirty-five percent of adults, 12 percent of adolescents and 14 percent of children in the United States are overweight, according to Dr. Nestle's new book "Food Politics" (University of California Press). "What I'm trying to do is force people to think about this," said Dr. Nestle (pronounced NES-sel). "Now, I know McDonald's isn't poison. Nobody can say that these foods in reasonable quantities are bad. Hamburgers have nutrients; milkshakes have nutrients, but they are very high in calories. And people don't even notice this eat-more message is here. That's what troubles me." Dr. Nestle's 10th-floor office off Washington Square Park in Manhattan is large; she is the head of New York University's department of nutrition and food studies. But much of the floor space is taken up with rows of plastic tubs full of meticulously organized files: her documentary evidence of how the food industry engages in politics to influence the American diet. It is the subject of her new book. In an interview, she presented several of her main accusations: Q. You say the food industry produces 3,800 calories a day for every person in the United States, up from 3,300 calories a day in the 1970's. How does this amount compare with the number of calories we need? A. The usual figures are 2,200 calories a day for women and 2,500 for men. Of course, we know that people are eating more than that, because we know they are gaining weight. Are people less active? Definitely. But they're also eating more. Q. How does the food industry promote overeating? A. Just by promoting eating. By spending $10 billion a year in direct media advertising. That is so much more than is spent on health and nutrition education, you can't even put them in the same stratosphere. The campaign for fruits and vegetables spends about $2 million a year on public education. The food industry spends another $20 billion a year in indirect marketing, which would include things like the McDonald's Mealtime Set and soft-drink makers' putting their logos on school scoreboards. These practices are so acceptable that people think drinking soft drinks all the time is normal. You're being told in a thousand ways, every time you set foot in a restaurant, to eat more. Their job is to sell you food, to sell you drinks, to sell you appetizers and desserts. Q. Doesn't portion size having something to do with overeating? A. Yes. It's very interesting that the larger portion business started at exactly the same time that obesity rates started to go up. One of my doctoral students did a huge literature search of things like magazine ads and McDonald's brochures, and she found that large-size portions started in the late 1970's and picked up in the early 80's. Muffins used to be one or two ounces; now they're six or seven or eight. Some bagels are also six or seven ounces. When I was a kid, bagels were the size of what are now called mini-bagels. And you never used to go into a restaurant and be presented with a bowl of pasta that you would expect to feed six people. You're presented with this now, and you've got to do something with it. Q. Why do you say the food industry especially wants us to eat more processed food? A. That's where the profit is. Potatoes are cheap. Potato chips aren't. And those really delicious olive oil rosemary ones that I happen to be particularly fond of are shockingly expensive, $3 for five ounces. The objective is to process foods as much as possible. But many of these highly processed foods are junk foods — relatively high in calories and low in nutrients. Q. Why are we susceptible to the food industry's message? A. Well, why wouldn't we be? The message is attractive. The food tastes good. The message about healthy eating is very boring. Q. Good nutritional advice is notoriously complicated and hard to follow, isn't it? A. No, it's not complicated. It's simple: eat more fruits and vegetables, and don't eat too much. And be active and don't smoke. What's complicated is single-nutrient advice. People think, I have to worry about calcium. I have to worry about folate. I have to worry about protein. I have to keep track of these 40 different nutrients, and they're so confusing. And then one day you tell me to eat margarine, and then the next day you tell me that trans- fatty acids aren't any good, and why can't you people make up your minds? I have a lot of sympathy for that. Q. You think the food industry exploits confusion about proper diets, don't you? A. It makes claims that are about marketing, not health. The margarines with wood pulp in them, which are supposed to lower cholesterol, are just another way to sell margarine. I don't think we need everything to be vitamin enriched. My feeling is, If people are worried about their vitamins, they can take a daily supplement. They don't need to have zinc in their Froot Loops. Q. Your book singles out cereals and Froot Loops, in particular for special criticism. Can you explain? A. We have a big problem with nutrition right now, as evidenced by rising rates of obesity and diabetes. And breakfast cereals are the place where it's most obvious. Froot Loops has no fruit and no fiber, and half the calories come from sugar. It's masquerading as cereal, but it's really candy. Candy has its place in the diet, but it's certainly not fruit, and it's not a health food. Q. In the mid-1980's, you worked in Washington for the Public Health Service as editor of the Surgeon General's Report on Nutrition and Health, published in 1988. Why was this book never updated, as planned? A. Because it is too controversial. If you tell people what to eat, you have to tell them to eat less of certain things, and then it's, eat less of what? The sugar industry people were in our office all the time. They most emphatically did not want us to say eat less sugar. The meat industry was really worried, since fat was a big issue, and meat is where the saturated fat is. They didn't want the surgeon general's report to say eat less meat. And it didn't. Q. In publishing your report on nutrition and health, how did you get around the pressures from the food industry? A. With euphemisms. The report doesn't say eat less meat; it says "choose lean meat." As if anybody is sitting there with a fat meter to tell how much is in there. It doesn't say eat less sugar; it says "choose a diet moderate in sugar." They're euphemisms that political nutritionists understand. The public, of course, doesn't. Q. What's wrong with people being fatter? A. Coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is totally preventable. Most people can prevent it by eating less, and not even that much less. You don't want individuals to feel bad about being overweight. You just want them to do something about it. Certainly, if they've got symptoms of diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease, you want them to do something about it, if you care about them. Q. What do you want to see happen? A. I want to see consciousness raised about the eat-more message. I think the food industry has to back off some of their practices. It really has to stop marketing to schools. It's unconscionable. And I think we need to make things easier for people. If you're interested in public health, if you want to do something about obesity, you need to change the environment. What's in the environment? Well, $30 billion worth of food marketing. I'd like to see the government take a much more serious approach to obesity prevention. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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