Thursday, January 31, 2008

Food, your diet and marketing pitches

Many of us are watching what we eat these days. Whether we are on a diet to lose a few pounds, have become vegans or buy products that are less stressful on the earth we are looking at things on the shelves a little differently. We still need to watch out for marketing tricks and bad products.

Organic food has become a big seller and I don't think there is a product out there that does not exist in organic format these days. A recent recall in Canada of organic baby food that went rancid is a testament to the fact that we buy what we believe is better based on the label. All food products have a risk of contamination where handling practices are inadequate. Another thing to note is that nobody advertises their food products on safety or a no contamination guarantee.

Advertising and food labels lead us to believe many things about a product. Many phrases such as "Trans fat free" and "natural" are tossed about but without any definition of what they really mean and how they benefit you. Many product lines exist that cater to a low this-or-that diet while adding something else. Read this article by Leslie Beck, titled Low fat-but with 14 grams of sugar, which provides a great summary of what is going on in the grocery aisles.

Finally, in the U.K. a parliamentary committee has suggested banning all artificial coloring in food and soft drinks. In my opinion, the most important reason is this quote from the article in the Guardian that says about food additives: "...studies suggest [they] may over-stimulate children's brains and make them hyperactive" Food companies, along with everyone else selling anything, target children. How else can you explain children who can't read begging parents to buy products they've never had before? The colorful packaging is the start. Food additives and composition are designed to stimulate certain areas of the brain to have positive experiences related to the food so we buy more, hence the repeat nag and buy. Many food products have additives so imagine the cumulative impact on a child's brain and behavior with all the foods designed for kids.

At the end of the day it is buyer beware as usual. We have the ability to access information and educate ourselves to make the right choices. Don't expect anybody to do the right thing. You have to vote with your feet and your wallet.


BBC said...

I have never had to diet, I eat to live, not live to eat.

And I don't pay much attention to what they are saying is good or bad for me, it's all too hard to sort out and they keep changing their minds so I just eat what I want to.

But I do make a lot of my meals from scratch, admittedly with some processed products but that is what is available.

I don't have the time and space for my own garden. Shoot, at my age death one way or the other is pretty much assured, I'm not going to spend much time worrying about how.

DweezelJazz said...

I agree, ultimately it's up to each individual to make a choice. With knowledge and awareness it's more likely we can choose wisely for ourselves and our planet. Thank you for your blog. Cheers,

life, views, reviews said...

As with anything, one has to decide where to draw the line between necessity and obsession...or on the other hand, necessity and complacency. I find organic products far too expensive to justify on a regular basis. But that doesn't mean I can't cut down on my own contribution to pesticide use. Even if you don't have a garden or balcony, most people have at least a sunny window in which they can put potted thyme or a small cherry tomato plant. And getting those fresh herbs or veggies grown by your own hands ... well you can't avoid feeling a little twinge of happiness as you bite into them. Ladybugs and preying mantis do a wonderful job in keeping pests at bay - and in the States, unhatched eggs can be purchased to add to your garden. And when they are having a tough time fighting back a particularly hard onslaught of pests, you can always use vinegar mists. Vinegar is also a great environmentally friendly household cleaner and disinfectant. So there is always something we can do in the "organic" direction even if we don't commit to buying only organic fruits and veggies.


FeButterfly said...

Great points Julie. I don't know if organic foods are the solution but taking action on an individual level definitely is and you are obviously doing what is right for you.

FeButterfly said...

One more thing I just found was that scientists can tell if artificial fertilizers have been used on organic produce.