After reading this article in the NY Times, The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food, (hey thanks for not being behind a paywall!) I immediately started reading the book from which the piece was taken, Salt, Sugar, Fat: How The Food Giants Hooked Us.
First, I love my KitchenAid mixer now than ever before, and second, I am rethinking my allegiance to Cheez-Its. The book takes a fascinating look into the rise of processed foods in America and how their salt, sugar, and fat content- all added to make the products we love have an increased shelf-live and be indisputably and scientifically addictive- has fueled the obesity epidemic. And how advertising has played a major role in our love for these foods.
I’m only about a quarter of a way through the book, but this passage recounting the battle between the food giants and the FTC over advertising of sugary cereals to young children really stood out, especially with Bloomberg’s battle with Big Soda fresh in my mind:
But in this matter of children’s advertising, the [Washington Post] turned fiercely against the FTC with an editorial whose headline labeled it ‘The National Nanny.’ Getting children to eat less sugar may be a laudable goal, the Post said, practically regurgitating the industry line that regulatory intervention was uncalled for, ‘but what are the children to be protected from? The candy and sugarcoated cereals that lead to tooth decay? Or the inability or refusal of their parents to say no? The food products will still be there, sitting on the shelves of the local supermarkets after all, no matter what happens to the commercials. So the proposal, in reality, is designed to protect children from the weaknesses of their parents- and the parents from the wailing insistence of their children. That, traditionally, is one of the roles of a governess- if you can afford one. It is not a proper role of government.’
This was in the 1970s; in 2013, we’re still have the same battle- nanny language and all, just this time with ‘big’ soda (which the author also points out in his notes). Really makes you think about the mechanics of the advertising ecosystem- and it’s impact on not just what we purchase, but on our lives.
*image credit: Richard Drew/AP