FoodNavigator-USA.com asked readers for their views on a recent joint study from Yale University and the University of Michigan that compared the food industry’s marketing strategies to those of the tobacco industry.
Below is a selection of attributed responses.
“The food industry far from perfect but to tar it with the same brush as tobacco is simply grossly unfair. Activists and legislators see the food industry as a convenient scapegoat for the obesity problem and what really worries me is that all the controls proposed by the nanny state brigade are likely to have little or no effect on the real problem - the industry can and should play its part in consumer education but the necessary changes in behavior cannot be legislated and fat taxes, controls on advertising etc are largely meaningless gestures.”
Nigel Sunley, Sunley Consulting, South Africa
“The food industry is as guilty, if not more guilty, of following the tobacco industry’s approach. It is no coincidence that the more we move from “real food” to today’s “industrialised” foods, the greater the health problems. The unproven cholesterol hypothesis has given the food industry carte blanche to significantly alter our basic diet. Focus on fats, sugar, calories and salt has led to ever increasing replacements to ensure the foods still taste good, feel good and have extended shelf life. These products, even when derived from natural sources, are not in their natural state when incorporated in food products.”
Fiona Benson, self-employed consultant for the ostrich industry, England
“Comparing the food and tobacco industries is reasonable. The food industry produces highly-processed food-like substances that are advertised to appear appealing. Many foods include copious use of refined sweeteners. Like tobacco, sugar is highly addictive as we learned from William Dufty’s 1975 "Sugar Blues." Just as the tobacco industry introduced "filtered" and "light" versions, the food industry has "low fat" and many means to highly process raw ingredients and remove most of the nutrients. The industry then "fortifies" these processed foods with marketable nutrients, but never recreates the health promoting properties of the whole food they replaced.”
Ned Weiser, Weiser Choices LLC, New York, USA
“The food consumer always has a healthy alternative, while the tobacco consumer doesn't.
However, the healthy alternative is generally more expensive which drives the consumer, especially in times of crisis, towards cheaper and unhealthier products, often without knowing. Unfortunately, there are plenty of food companies, among which some very prestigious ones, that offer erroneous and false information to the consumer, which, in the long run, will harm the consumer and the whole food industry, and the misleaders in particular.”
Dr. Frankwin Van Dieren, Idilia Consulting, Spain
“Super-sizing was a “tobacco industry” style marketing maneuver. High salt levels prepared foods have been around for decades. Trans fat was considered better than saturated fat. The food industry has most recently, for the most part, taken a more responsible position based on current science. Our society values free choice and personal responsibility. If I buy a 16 ounce candy bar it is my choice to eat the whole thing in one sitting or share it. Education of consumers and more responsible product formulations from food companies need to work together for a healthier population.”
Toni Manning, Strasburger & Siegel, Inc, Maryland, USA
“Two points. First off, you must remember that two of the biggest food "scandals" of 2008, Westland-Hallmark and Chinese melamine contamination were not the product of deceitful food companies but rather unethical individuals. Westland-Hallmark exposed a problem with the system which has since been corrected. The melamine scare magnified the fact not all countries meet our food standards and that must be taken into account in global trade.
My second point, if people turn away from food, as suggested, where are they going to turn to? We can live without tobacco but we can't live without food.”
Bob Meyer, Brownfield Press, Wisconsin, USA
“Absolutely I think the food industry is as guilty as the tobacco industry, and the pharmaceutical industry, and probably several others, of doing anything and everything to make a profit without the slightest thought for will this make people sick except to have it "allowed" by our government, hopefully with some kind of government perk or kickback to boot. The corn, wheat, sugar and soy industries are especially guilty of this.
They KNOW the food they sell causes allergies, auto-immune disorders, diabetes, obesity, Chronic Fatigue, candida overgrowth, bowel disorders, etc. Yet they "fund" studies to prove otherwise.”
Isabel Crabtree, consumer, location not disclosed