Matt Richtel is a great journalist, and some kudos go to the NYT for retaining him.
Today’s story from Richtel and co-author Andrew Jacobs is about how, in order to satisfy their shareholders, corporate capitalists are pushing junk food onto the Third World. It is well worth the read, and includes the story of how Nestle hires women to visit poor households in Brazil with snack items right after their meager welfare checks arrive.
For those of us keeping track of our system’s inexorable commodification of human life, here is a representative and telling behind-the-scenes* quote from the Jacobs and Richtel report:
Ahmet Bozer, president of Coca-Cola International, described [his firm’s commodification efforts] to investors in 2014. “Half the world’s population has not had a Coke in the last 30 days,” he said. “There’s 600 million teenagers who have not had a Coke in the last week. So the opportunity for that is huge.”
*Behind-the-scenes not because it was made in a secret forum, but because our corporate media almost never report such items, despite their institutional centrality and cultural importance.
Given that they haven’t yet bothered to think through the basic labels and human relationships involved, it’s no surprise that “consumer” activists have a positive talent for hatching profoundly silly attempts at combating the big business marketing juggernaut.
The latest such windmill-tilt is the effort to support new regulations on advertising food to children. The New York Times reports:
Lucky Charms. Froot Loops. Cocoa Pebbles. A ConAgra frozen dinner with corn dog and fries. McDonald’s Happy Meals.
These foods might make a nutritionist cringe, but all of them have been identified by food companies as healthy choices they can advertise to children under a three-year-old initiative by the food industry to fight childhood obesity.
Now a hard-nosed effort by the federal government to forge tougher advertising standards that favor more healthful products has become stalled amid industry opposition and deep divisions among regulators.
Of course, the new rules are being written by the U.S. Congress, so their arrival is long overdue, as the assembled representatives perform their duty and let their major donors nibble away at the proposed rules.
Meanwhile, always the naivest crowd in the room, “Some advocates fear the delay could result in the measure being stripped of its toughest provisions,” observes The Times.
How long have you been asleep, Activist Van Winkle? This is what Congress does. It represents money.
At the same time, the whole thing is a blatant play-acting farce in the first place. Advertising junk food to kids, which the new regulations might possibly mildly impede but certainly not stop, explains at most 10 percent of the modern obesity epidemic. A far larger chunk (pun intended) results from rampant addiction to television and televisual “new media,” all massively and aggressively sponsored by corporate capitalist marketing. Another, also much bigger cause of obesity is cars-first transportation, without which corporate capitalism would implode.
There’s also something slippery about the gambit of trying to respond to fight all this by limiting what advertisers can say. The First Amendment is not a toy.
A real response to corporate capitalist lying and killing would involve advocating aggressively competitive public media and public enterprise. Quadruple the budgets of PBS and the NEA, and charge them with voicing the public interest, free from the need to keep private sponsors happy. Launch public, non-profit enterprises that make and sell products designed to be cheaper and better and healthier than the most harmful corporate wares. Fight for a program of radical reconstruction of the nation’s town and cities, to de-emphasize televisual addictions and cars-first travel.
These are serious, potentially meaningful answers. Hoping that Congress will stop one particular advertising claim about junk food is a tempest in a very, very small teapot. Given our moment in human history, it is simply a joke, coverage in The New York Times notwithstanding (or perhaps confirming).
Hold onto your hats, boys and girls: Cocoa Krispies is apparently not a health food after all!
Advertising Age is reporting that, due to its fear of a backlash arising from “parental concerns that [its] advertising and packaging was preying on fears of the H1N1 virus,” Kellogg Company, the billion-dollar-a-year profit engine that peddles Cocoa Krispies and other junk food, is removing preposterous “anti-oxidant” claims from Cocoa Krispies boxes.
Kellogg Company today announced its decision to discontinue the immunity statements on Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereals.
Last year, Kellogg Company started the development of adding antioxidants to Rice Krispies cereals. This is one way the Company responded to parents indicating their desire for more positive nutrition in kids’ cereal.
While science shows that these antioxidants help support the immune system,given the public attention on H1N1, the Company decided to make this change. The communication will be on pack for the next few months as packaging flows through store shelves. We will, however, continue to provide the increased amounts of vitamins A, B, C and E (25% Daily Value) that the cereal offers.
We will continue to respond to the desire for improved nutrition, and we are committed to communicating the importance of nutrition to our consumers.
Let’s run that through our handy-dandy, unpatented Consumer Trap Marketing-to-English Translator, shall we?
Kellogg Company today announced its decision to discontinue the immunity statements on Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereals. Meanwhile, we won’t tell you here that by “Rice Krispies,” we also mean “Cocoa Krispies.” Including that fact would disclose that we are basically selling candy here.
Last year, Kellogg Company started the development of adding antioxidants to Rice Krispiesand Cocoa Krispies cereals. This is one way the Company responded to parents‘indicating their desire forvulnerability to deceptive claims about more positive nutrition in kids’ cereallives.
While science*showssuggests that these antioxidants may help support the immune system,given the public attention onthat we know our vitamin-sprayed sugar crunch doesn’t have a prayer of preventing H1N1, the Company decided to make this change. The communication will be on pack for the next few months as packaging flows through store shelves. After all, it would cost us money to remove them now. We will, however, continue to providespray on the increased amounts of vitamins A, B, C and E (25% Daily Value) that the cereal offerscontinues to provide us with an excuse for passing our product off as [wink, wink, make air quotes] “part of a nutritious breakfast.“
We will continue to respond toignoreboth the desire for improved nutrition and the nutritional and economic inferiority of our mega-processed and packaged product to plain old whole-grain bread, and we are committed to communicating the importancesuppressing knowledge of nutrition and home economicstoamong our consumerstargets.
Fuck you, and goodnight.
*When science is even conceivably on our side, it is absolute truth. Climate change? Dangers of excessive sugar intake? Needs more research.