Tag Archives: eating

Old-fashioned Deception

This week, while observing at City Market, I decided to switch up my position from a stationary window seat in the cafe and instead, stroll through the aisles. It was 7:30am, the earliest I had ever been to City Market, and everyone was still waking up. People, myself included, moved slowly and I saw a couple yawns.

As I weaved in and out of the aisles, I was amazed by the number of boxed, bagged, bottled and canned products that lined the shelves. As my eyes adjusted, I suddenly noticed that while the color, shape and size of products was interesting, what fascinated me the most was the messaging on the labels. Perhaps it was my stomach speaking, but before I knew it I was in the cereal aisle, crouched over my cart, looking at different cereal options. A few seconds later I began to wonder, what are these labels telling the consumer?

As I moved from organic to conventional brands, the internal dialogue continued. Even at a healthy foods store such as City Market, the ales still contain highly processed products with extremely mis-leading and deceiving information on the labels. What’s more, is that if I weren’t an informed consumer, I would have no idea that some of these products are sounhealthy. This got me thinking about eating as a question of personal choice. How are we expected to choose healthy foods if the information on labels isn’t accurate and reliable?

As I stood in the cereal aisle puzzled, my eyes settled on a big blue label at the top of a Lucky Charms box. The label stated that Lucky Charms is ‘Whole Grain Guaranteed, a good source of Calcium and Vitamin D’, among other things. This made Lucky Charms appear to be relatively healthy. But is it really?

According to the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) General Mills uses whole grain claims to distract consumers from sugar content. The report states that the company markets all of its Big G cereals as containing “More Whole Grain Than Any Other Ingredient*” with an asterisk that takes you to the disclaimer  “*as compared to any other single ingredient”.

The PHIA report points you to General Mills’ web page about sugar where they compare plain Cheerios (1 gram of sugar per serving) to Trix (10 grams of sugar per serving ) then ask:

From a calorie and nutrient standpoint, are both products a good breakfast choice?

Yes, they are. In fact, all General Mills cereals are lower calorie, nutrient dense choices.

Just because both cereals are low-calorie and contain whole grains, doesn’t mean they are equally healthy or even healthy to begin with! Don’t forget that Trix has 9 g more sugar per serving than Cheerios, and both are highly processed. However, without taking a deeper look at the cereals ingredients you would never know this. The marketing scheme employed by General Mills’ fools consumers into thinking that Lucky Charms (and all other Big G cereals) are healthy by emphasizing whole grain content in order to distract attention away from sugar content.

Given that it’s not just General Mills using dishonest marketing gimmicks to boost profit, should manufacturers be required to put health warnings on product labels? Imagine if instead of boasting whole grain content, the General Mills’ blue label stated that agricultural chemicals were used. Would this turn consumers off from buying it? Or perhaps nutrition labels belong on the front of food packages? Whatever it is, measures needs to be taken to ensure that food labels provide a more accurate reflection of the product and its health implications.

FN 2/20

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Eating as a Philosophy

The amount of food available has skyrocketed in the past couple of decades. Part of this has to do with the extent food to which food is processed as well as sheer diversity. Needless to say, the increase has resulted in more concern and anxiety around food (Lupton, 85). As I was sitting in City Market the other day conducting my observations I noticed a few customers that seemed anxious and unsure about their food purchases, however the large majority of shoppers seemed to be enjoying their experience. In fact, it seemed as if grocery shopping was a source of genuine pleasure for many shoppers. On several occasions shoppers would run into someone they know and talk for a couple minutes. Other times I would just notice a sense of happiness and contentment that seemed present from individual shoppers, couples shopping and even groups of friends shopping for ingredients together for that nights dinner.

According to Deborah Lupton, “for many people, eating has become a philosophy, a secular means of attributing meaning and value to everyday practices. This approach places a great deal of emphasis on the monitoring of one’s diet, to the point where it is believed that it is almost impossible to achieve and maintain good health (in its physical, mental emotional and spiritual senses) without exercising vigilant control over diet.” I believe the notion of eating as a philosophy is quite true true in a place like Burlington, which is known for it’s health conscious, physically active, environmentally responsible citizens. In other words, it makes sense that people put in the extra effort to eat responsibly here.

Many people, myself included, find it important to align their actions with their values. I realized this is what I see people do every week while shopping at the co-op. Having access to the space of the co-op and being able to shop their regularly is undoubtably a tremendous privilege, and one that I believe helps people align their actions with their values. Making informed, conscious food choices and watching others do so has been a great source of pleasure throughout my participatory observations. What about you guys- is food a philosophy for you?

FN 2/6