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Advertising For Fast Food: Free Speech or Behavior Manipulation?

Last week I had a semi-rant in regards to the USDA’s MyPlate. On Sunday, an opinion piece in the New York Times delved even deeper into the topic in a piece titled Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?

It’s a well written piece and a scathing rebuttal to the prevalent notion that it is cheaper to eat junk food. The article focuses on the upfront costs and barely skims the long term implications of eating an unhealthy diet.

The Fat Future of the Human Race

After hearing stories of cheeseburgers and Twinkies that won’t decay, I’ve gone as far as posting in my social networks that some of these food items should be banned and labeled as poison. Of course most people brushed aside my assertions with a preference for “freedom of choice”. That’s why I was particularly struck by a paragraph towards the end of the Times article that more eloquently stated my position:

“Political action would mean agitating to limit the marketing of junk; forcing its makers to pay the true costs of production; recognizing that advertising for fast food is not the exercise of free speech but behavior manipulation of addictive substances; and making certain that real food is affordable and available to everyone. The political challenge is the more difficult one, but it cannot be ignored.”

It’s obvious that something needs to be done to curtail the raging obesity epidemic. The problems associated with it in the form of rising healthcare costs affect all of us and not just those who are obese. With the Washington Post reporting last month that Half of U.S. Adults Will Be Obese By 2030, our society is on the verge of (pardon the pun) being smashed by the weight of this issue.

I’m concerned that indecision and disagreement about what to do will forestall any preventable actions that could be put in motion. As with so many other pressing issues of our times, there is no definitive choice or clear path of action.

I know it all seems daunting, but let’s keep in mind that change starts with us. It starts with each individual learning to live a healthier life, to move and exercise each day, and make better decisions.

Even though I feel that more action needs to be taken at the policy level, the best way to evoke change in others is by setting an example!

4 thoughts on “Advertising For Fast Food: Free Speech or Behavior Manipulation?”

  1. Hi Johnny,
    I can’t fault Bittman’s take on fast food .. or yours on Twinkies ;-)! If you have time, check out this link: http://frac.org/initiatives/hunger-and-obesity/The entire site is very interesting, and provides another perspective on the obesity epidemic, particularly as it impacts the poverty stricken.  Essentially, the question is why are poor and hungry people more often obese than people in higher socio-economic groups?

    1. There is a lot of info on that site. I bookmarked it for future reference.

      It seems that part of the problem is education, the other part is access; and both of those things cannot be considered without looking at cost. Unfortunately, the costs of feeding our people and so called “entitlement” programs are easy targets of ridicule when they are competing for dollars with the costs of subsidizing “peace.”

      Still, with the New York Times article outlining that healthy eating is only marginally more expensive than eating junk (in the short term), then I think it comes down to why our society allows corporations to distribute toxins and poison labeled as food?

      More regulation is certainly not a popular political outcome and therefore places the responsibility on us citizens and consumers.

      The problem then is that we simply cannot compete against the power of corporate marketing, advertising, and lobbying to influence health policy.

      The rest of us concerned with this issue are left exasperated.

  2. Hi Johnny,
    I can’t fault Bittman’s take on fast food .. or yours on Twinkies ;-)!  If you have time, check out this link: http://frac.org/initiatives/hunger-and-obesity/The entire site is very interesting, and provides another perspective on the obesity epidemic, particularly as it impacts the poverty stricken.   Essentially, the question is why are poor and hungry people more often obese than people in higher socio-economic groups?  

    1. There is a lot of info on that site. I bookmarked it for future reference.

      It seems that part of the problem is education, the other part is access; and both of those things cannot be considered without looking at cost. Unfortunately, the costs of feeding our people and so called “entitlement” programs are easy targets of ridicule when they are competing for dollars with the costs of subsidizing “peace.”

      Still, with the New York Times article outlining that healthy eating is only marginally more expensive than eating junk (in the short term), then I think it comes down to why our society allows corporations to distribute toxins and poison labeled as food?

      More regulation is certainly not a popular political outcome and therefore places the responsibility on us citizens and consumers.

      The problem then is that we simply cannot compete against the power of corporate marketing, advertising, and lobbying to influence health policy.

      The rest of us concerned with this issue are left exasperated.

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