Food marketing is on my mind these days. It clearly is also on the mind of marketers at Pepsi. What’s wrong with you women. You aren’t buying enough Baked Lays? Pepsi’s research on your feelings about snacking and guilt reveals that you want foods that are healthier. Pepsi’s answer to this problem? New packaging, of course. This ad is probably too small to read but here’s what it says: First woman: “These things are the best invention since the push-up bra.” Second woman: “I wouldn’t go that far.” I wouldn’t either, alas.
When it comes to food marketing, I know I live on another planet but really, doesn’t the fuss over the packaging of Tropicana go too far? According to the report in the New York Times, consumers are so upset over Pepsi’s new Tropicana carton design that they have forced Pepsi to withdraw it. Pepsi, it seems, underestimated the deep emotional bond its customers had with the original packaging. Deep emotional bond? With orange juice packaging? Readers: I need some help with this one.
As if that weren’t enough, CSPI’s Margo Wootan sends me the latest newsletter from the Council of Better Business Bureaus giving details of voluntary efforts by food companies to improve the nutritional quality of products marketed to kids. Do these seem like significant improvements?
I know I’ve already posted today but I’m on an American flight to L.A. connected to GoGo and can’t resist checking out the WiFi. It works! And they aren’t charging for it on this flight! And anyway, we have terrific news today: Kathleen Merrigan’s nomination as USDA assistant secretary. Here’s what I told Eating Liberally about it. Enjoy the day!
A report just out from the European Union explains why food companies so strongly oppose traffic light systems for labeling food products. Consumers interpret red lights as meaning “don’t eat me.” Here is how the U.K. Food Safety Authority is using traffic lights. Compare this to the check mark system preferred by the food industry.
In case you were wondering how come Bill Niman is no longer associated with Niman Ranch meats, yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle explains the whole sad story, one framed by the writer as a matter of idealism vs. economic realities.
Perhaps coincidentally, Nicolette Hahn Niman’s new book, Righteous Porkchop, is just out. This is a thoughtful and affecting memoir of her version of the events–her background as an activist lawyer, her romance with Bill, and their work together. I blurbed it, pointing out that it should establish her as an independent national voice for efforts to reform industrial animal production.
I also blurbed Betty Fussell’s entertainingly researched cultural history of American beef, Raising Steaks. If you want to know what the fuss about humanely and sustainably raised meat is about, these books are a great starting point.
Thanks to CSPI’s Margo Wootan for sending the link to this nifty video about school lunch lobbying (she is featured in it, eloquently). The video, made by the American News Project, takes place at a January 28 hearing on school lunch nutrition regulations run by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The IOM is working on developing science-based criteria for the nutritional quality of school meals. Take a look at who is in the audience. Question: What are they doing there? Answer: The USDA buys enormous quantities of food commodities to supply schools enrolled in federal school meal programs. The video gets a 5-star YouTube rating, and for good reason.
My latest Food Matters column in the San Francisco Chronicle…
As I argued in my book, Safe Food, in 2003, the big problem with genetically modified foods is not whether the foods are safe to eat. Instead, the real problem is a matter of who controls the food supply. To understand, for example, why GM foods are not labeled as such, it is useful to understand that the biotech food industry is secretive, agressive in defending its property rights and attacking critics, and relentless in protecting its corporate interests. Today’s example: biotech food companies are not permitting independent research scientists to study the foods. As reported in the New York Times, corporate control and secrecy have gotten so bad that a group of 26 corn-insect researchers has complained to the EPA that companies are not permitting them to grow GM crops for research purposes. This, of course, makes questions about the environmental and human health risks unanswerable.
Biotech food companies complain bitterly about consumer distrust of their products. The remedy is simple: label the foods and let independent researchers study their environmental and safety effects.