A few years back, we decided to let the food industry self-regulate.
Consumers, the medical community, policymakers—everyone was up in arms over rising rates of childhood obesity. With government regulation looming large, the food industry came up with its own plan: the food and beverage companies would police themselves. The industry’s largest manufacturers and marketers would spearhead a voluntary effort to rein in their own marketing of unhealthy foods and drinks. That’s how we got the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). Its 17 member companies are all the big dogs: Burger King and McDonald’s, Coke and Pepsi, Post and Kellogg, Hershey and Nestlé; and they all signed a pledge committing themselves to “marketing only healthier dietary choices to children.”
…marketing only healthier dietary choices to children…
Look closely at the pledged phrase. The CFBAI members all did. Note the punctuation, sense the unseen air quotes, appreciate the ersatz truthiness of the wording.
First let’s consider what’s meant by ‘healthier dietary choices’.
If they meant healthy they would have said healthy, but instead they went with a fungible but fuzzier choice. Since this is the world of Big Food, healthier doesn’t necessarily mean healthy anymore than chicken wyngz and creme filling mean that you’re eating poultry and dairy. The CFBAI isn’t promising actual healthy dietary choices but something a little more business-friendly and a lot less burdened by nutritional science. In the first go-round, the CFBAI adopted a fox-guarding-the-henhouse policy leaving each company to its own interpretation of healthier dietary choices. The organization produced a laughable report touting the companies’ compliance as ‘excellent,’ and illustrated the wishful group-think by highlighting some of the allowable choices: