Friday, January 21, 2011


The announcement from the First Lady of the United States that the food industry there has agreed to cut down 1.5 trillion calories in the food products they market within the next ten years really made big headlines all over the world. Of course whether this will materialize or the industry would dilly dally on their promise once the administration in the US changes, is another matter. The fact still remains that over-sweetened foods, targeted especially at kids are flooding the market and no effort is spared to promote them investing heavily by the food industry. It is understandable that industry does not work for charity and ensuring decent return on investments is a genuine aspiration. Where it hurts the mankind is, when such relentless profit-chasing endeavors are blind to the harm caused to the consumers. This becomes doubly dubious when it is done deliberately with very little sympathy for the sufferings caused to the people through unfairly promoted unhealthy processed foods.

"Research shows more than 20,000 new food and beverage products are introduced into the market each year. This is in addition to the products we already have in the grocery store, many of which are highly processed high-sugar, high-salt, high-fat items. A 2003 report by the International Association of Consumer Food Organizations suggests that for every $1 spent by the World Health Organization on trying to improve the nutrition of the world's population, $500 is spent by the food industry on promoting processed foods. I recently did a Google search to see what would come up when I requested "food marketing articles" and there were more than 58 million links. The field of food marketing is a huge area of study with an intense goal to sell more and compete for brand recognition. Marketing to kids has proven to be big business for the food industry, since children and teens spend billions of their own dollars annually, influence how billions more are spent through household food purchases, and are future adult consumers. Tactics used by the food industry to entice kids in particular include offering collectible toys, games and contests. They are also technologically savvy in their use of memorable messages and games on websites and in-school marketing. Food industry marketers are brilliant at creating cartoon characters, collectible toys, games, music, contests, and food shapes and colours to entice kids to want their products".

It is often a dilemma for the governments whether such tendencies are to be curbed through strict policy orchestration or it is more desirable to cajole the industry to mend its way through appropriate steps. The role of consumer also is important as a well informed and disciplined consumer can always resist the "advances" or "seduction" by the industry through "thoughtful" buying but such consumers are far and few to make any impact on the situation. What about banning advertisements of processed foods with high sugar, salt or fat or energy content in the electronic media? Or heavy taxation of such products to make them exorbitantly costly? Unless some thing is done to prevent the present trend, to day's kids are likely to become future bloated citizens with grotesque figures and shapes straddling every country in this planet!


No comments: