Who will defend Big Food, the poor victim?

I’ve been wanting to get to this topic for a while, but it has languished in the in-box, as too many other things do:

The headline is, “The Food Industry Fights Back,” and it’s written by Dave Fusaro, editor in chief of foodprocessing.com (“Home Page for the Food & Beverage Industry”). The subhed is just as good: “On obesity, food safety, 'questionable' ingredients, the industry can do a better job of tactfully defending itself; the key is transparency.”

So that’s the problem! There’s nothing wrong with “‘questionable’ ingredients,” or the industry’s role in the obesity epidemic, or its actions on food safety. What we have here, apparently, is merely a failure to communicate.

Here’s the puckish lead paragraph:

From obesity to cancer to Taliban terrorism, the food and beverage industry seems to get blamed for all of this world's ills. OK, maybe not the Taliban, but for just about everything else, the modern diet and processed foods are fingered as the culprits.

OK, maybe not the Taliban, but just about everything else!

Poor, downtrodden, scapegoated victims, responsible for nothing more than poorly communicating all its good works and deeds. If only Big Food had a voice, despite spending b-i-l-l-i-o-n-s a year to spread its message on TV, radio, the internet, in magazines, on billboards, on product packaging, in in-store marketing.

This is so unfair. Someone deserves a refund, maybe.

There may be information-management tidbits in the food problem facing the world, but to anyone not in the foxhole — poor, embattled food industry! — it’s the processed food that contributes to obesity, not poor communication. It’s the food industry that uses questionable (no quotes) ingredients. It’s the food industry that fails to safeguard our food (when it does).

If it didn’t engineer its products with layers of fat, salt, refined sugar, and refined grain, solely in pursuit of higher profits without regard to public health, there wouldn’t be a communication problem.

If it didn’t stuff its products with chemicals, there wouldn’t be a communication problem about the problems they create.

The problems around food safety have to do with food safety, not communicating about it. When the issue is whether what you’re selling me is safe, I don’t need to be told about all the good things you’re doing. I need to know that my food is safe. When there’s an outbreak of E coli, the solution isn’t better communication, it’s keepin’ the freakin’ pathogen off my food.

There’s one more section I wanted to deride, I mean “share”:

The obesity epidemic "has been translated from the personal decision-making responsibility of the individual to holding the processor accountable for what they put into their products as being the cause," says a manufacturing executive at a Midwestern meat processing company. "If [consumers] put the same amount of effort into individual responsibility and education, if we would hold ourselves more accountable for what happens to us and avoid the 'victim' mentality." Then the obesity problem would be controlled, he says.

If you read this blog even occasionally, you know that I’m completely down with personal responsibility. No one ever held me down and inserted food in my mouth — although, one could say, figuratively, that the purpose of Big Food’s billions in promotional spending is to shove its products down the gullets of people who otherwise would eat differently. No one can deny that that’s why they spend those billions, if not to influence us.

It would be a lot easier to be personally responsible if we weren’t all subjected to the promotional onslaught — if Big Food wasn't spending all that money precisely to counter personal responsibility. But that only goes to the ease of acting responsibly, not whether I agree with the meat processor that if I am to be healthy, I have to take personal responsibility for my health.

I do have to, and I do my best. But Big Food mouthpieces shun their personal responsibility not only by disclaiming the inevitable results of what they do, but by working tirelessly to undermine others' personal responsibility by relentlessly influencing them to act against their own health interests. Further, they urge others to act responsibly while hoping to heaven that they won't, ‘cause it’ll be curtains for the craphounds if we do.

But that’s not even why I wanted to quote that last block. The writer has the gall to include a quote about victim mentality, when the article starts out painting Big Food as one big victim!

Woe is them, the highly capitalized, wholly pervasive, ever-jingling behemoth. Oh, who will speak in its behalf?

Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
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