Friday, February 26, 2010


Informed consumers world over are concerned about the increasing impact of brazen health claims printed on processed food products, most of which target children and house wives. It is known that high decibel promotion of these products are sufficiently persuasive and boosts their sale dramatically. Here is a critique on such devious practices indulged by powerful food manufacturers.

Fast-forward to 1984, when Kellogg's high-fiber All-Bran cereal won an endorsement from the National Cancer Institute. "Within 6 months, All-Bran's market share increased by 47%, sending an unmistakable message that health claims sell products," Nestle and Ludwig write. So perhaps it was inevitable that in 2009, Kellogg would claim that its Cocoa Krispies and other Krispies cereals would "support your child's IMMUNITY" because they are fortified with vitamins A, C and E, three antioxidants that contribute to the immune system. Here's what Nestle had to say about that assertion in a Q&A last year with the San Francisco Chronicle:All nutrients are involved in immune function. But is it remotely possible that Cocoa Krispies might protect your child against colds or swine flu? I wish."

After San Francisco City Atty. Dennis Herrera challenged the immunity claim, Kellogg backed down. But case-by-case enforcement isn't sufficient, Nestle and Ludwig say. Food makers are brazen in their pronouncements that their highly processed products are healthy, and research shows that consumers not only believe the statements but also perceive them to carry a government seal of approval. That leaves only one solution, the coauthors say: "an outright ban on all front-of-package claims." Such a ban would surely face a court challenge on 1st Amendment grounds, Nestle and Ludwig concede, but the FDA should not shrink from the fight:"Claims that sugar-sweetened products make children smarter or boost their immunity are reason enough for the FDA to take this issue back to court and for Congress to consider legislative remedies."

Lot of food for thought for governments that control the industry through administrative policies to protect their hapless citizens. While enacting laws may be easier, their enforcement through rigorous vigilance and deterrent punitive action calls for a sound infrastructure for inspection, market sampling and reliable chemical and microbiological testing.


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