Big Food ≠ Real Food

Big Food ≠ Real Food

I enjoy flipping through an old magazine looking at their advertisements. From my teenage years I was fascinated with exploring subliminal advertising in old liquor ads. I remember clearly seeing the “S E X” spelled out in a pile of ice cubes, the women–open-mouthed–holding many-a phallic object, and the far-fetched, hyper-idealized circumstances contained in the ads. Later, as I moved into an exploration of feminism, I criticized the place of women in these old ads: their simplification and objectification, how the ads promoted misogynist views and strengthened the “male-dominant paradigm” [“Raaar!!”]  I know I am not alone in believing old advertising to be sociologically fascinating. And years of progress has helped many find amusement in ads like this [and take a look at these]. Unfortunately, not everyone extends such critical thinking on today’s advertisements. And they are just as ludicrous.

The blatant lies ought to be outlawed. Especially when they contribute to health problems. Like the old deceptive and misleading cigarette advertisements that touted cigarettes as healthy, with health claims from actual doctors. Now, with ad budgets bigger, companies can fund their own studies. But most don’t even need to. They’re, after all, a “trusted” brand. This is certainly true for processed food advertisements. With so many health problems related to eating a diet of processed food, “Big Food” is kind of the new “Big Tobacco.” And with brand loyalty, nostalgic associations, and easy convenience on their side, these big food companies thrive–at the price of their customers’ health.

This is, of course, big business. The Big Food companies pretty much own all the inside aisles of the supermarket. Though the variety of packages and brand names perpetrate real choice, it just isn’t so. With money to be had, Big Food has taken to buying up small, health-minded start-ups, hiding behind their established images of “all natural” and “eco-friendly” while they cut corners and contradict the product’s image (This is a great resource for creating a better grocery list.) It is, after all–like most everything where profit reigns, a nice image to hide all the ugliness. All of this rials me up quite a bit. [“Raaar!!” again]

That is why I was so interested to see this article in the NYTimes this morning. It seems lawsuits against food companies for deceptive labeling has begun. Although some frivolous (a lawsuit against General Mills by a consumer disappointed to learn crunch berries were not an actual fuit) to merited (a suit against Pam cooking spray for not disclosing the specific propellants contained in their product: petroleum gas, propane and butane.) Whether this trend is an example of lawyers following the buck or not, it is time giant food corporations begin to take some responsibility in misleading the public regarding the healthfulness of their products. It is downright sickening what these companies are allowed to pitch. And even more sickening when you consider the health problems and lifestyle illnesses that plague this country. There ought to be a law! But that wouldn’t be good for big business now would it.

Here are a list of lawsuits I’d like to see pending. And so I don’t have to purge all these rants to The Electrician constantly, I’ll keep growing this list:

Hamburger Helper [General Mills]: “Sometimes it’s hard to cook a home cooked meal every night,” their advertisements say. Luckily, you have Hamburger Helper on your side. With a package of pink slime ground round and Hamburger Helper‘s packet of hydrolyzed, chemical flavorings, almighty ever-versatile corn syrup, hydrogenated genetically engineered soybean, and their nutritionally-void pasta, you can have an amazing “home-cooked meal.” Are you joking?

Lean Cuisine [Nestlé]: “Be culinary chic.” Yeah, sure. Culinary should never be associated with unpackaging a block of frozen processed food–hydrogenated genetically engineered soybean, high fructose corn syrup, and a long list of preservatives (see a trend here?), poking holes in cellophane and microwaving it. I hate this brand most especially as they target my peers and profit on their attempt in trying to eat healthfully, however misguided.