I realize with everything going on here in Oblivion lately I’ve not been following a lot of news. In fact I’ll be perfectly honest and tell you if it hasn’t come across my Google reader or my Twitter stream, I probably don’t know about it. All the biggest news hits those places first, so maybe by being behind I’m actually staying ahead of the game?
Either way I was catching up on my Twitter feed when Fiona posted about a New York Times piece describing the new campaign by a program called “Smart Choices”. Smart Choices describes their goal as “designed to help shoppers easily identify smarter food and beverage choices.” They work with the food and beverage industry and award green checkmark labels to foods that meet certain standards based on federal dietary guidelines.
Sounds pretty innocuous, right?
It would be, right up until you see the actual food lists.
Froot Loops is a ‘Smart Choice’.
Cocoa Puffs are a ‘Smart Choice’.
Pretty much all of the Kid Cuisine frozen meals are a ‘Smart Choice’.
Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise (not the low-fat stuff, the real kind) is a ‘Smart Choice’.
I’m sorry, but..what the fuck planet are these people living on again?
Quite simply, the planet with the money.
A short perusal of their website turns up the fact that half of their Board of Directors are executives for major food and beverage companies, such as Kelloggs and Kraft. Since when does turning out junk food make them qualified to judge the merits of healthy foods?
And while the programs is advertised as non-profit, the companies pay a percentage of sales of those products bearing the logo to the Smart Choices program, up to $100,000 per year. With 10 of the largest companies signed up so far, including Kelloggs, Pepsico, and Unilever, you have to wonder where that first million dollars is going to go.
The money issue aside, I truly wonder about the ethics of the ‘doctors’ endorsing this program. Dr. Eileen Kennedy was quoted in the article as explaining that between a donut and Froot Loops, Froot Loops is the better choice because it has artificially added vitamins, she fails to explain the logic behind promoting ‘better’ junk food as opposed to actual healthy foods. A banana is both cheaper and healthier than cereal that contains 44% sugar (no, that’s not a typo), so why are they not after promoting things like fruits (as opposed to ‘froots’) and vegetables?
The ‘it’s better than…’ logic just doesn’t work for me. I mean for all that, giving your kids candy for breakfast is better than giving them rat poison, but I don’t consider either of them a viable breakfast option. Giving your kids whiskey is certainly better than giving them bleach, but are either something that you’d consider pouring into their juice cups?
It’s sad to me that by using this ‘it’s better than’ shtick the people behind this program are clearly preying on the poor and uneducated, trying to make them feel like they’ve made a smarter choice, when in reality all this program is doing is lining some already-fat pockets at the expense of our children’s health.