We enjoy and support the work of our colleagues at the Union of Concerned Scientists, and we highly recommend their latest report — “Sugar-Coating Science: How the Food Industry Misleads Consumers on Sugar.”
As the report’s summary states:
“A growing body of scientific evidence supports this proposition, and groups such as the World Health Organization, the American Heart Association, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have confirmed it by recommending sugar intake limits far below typical American consumption levels. Yet despite the evidence that we need to eat less sugar, we continue to consume far too much of it—encouraged by the aggressive, and often deceptive, marketing strategies of the food and beverage industry.”
Many of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ current sponsors — the same ones who tell dietitians they prioritize health and wellness and are given the green light by the Academy to teach continuing education to dietitians — are highlighted in this report.
Among industry’s deceptive marketing practices the report touches on:
- “Take an established brand that’s light in sugar and market new, sweeter versions of the brand—such as the cereal brands shown at right;
- Use words commonly associated with health or fitness to market sugary products—such as using the word “fruit” to market products that have very little fruit content and almost none of the nutritional benefits of whole fruit.
- Employ PR campaigns and front groups to promote pro-sugar messages. For instance, the PR firm of Berman and Company conducted a sophisticated campaign on behalf of the Corn Refiners Association, using the resonant messages that added sugar is “natural” and that how much sugar Americans eat is a matter of “consumer freedom” rather than public health.”
That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The report also explains how industry targets vulnerable audiences:
- “Children are targets of nearly a quarter of the food industry’s advertising budget. Research has shown that they particularly vulnerable to sugar advertising: they are more receptive to sweet tastes than adults, and young children, in particular, do not recognize “persuasive intent”—in short, they don’t know when they are being marketed to. Efforts to limit advertising to children through the powers of the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission gathered momentum in the 1970s, but fell victim to deregulation in the 1980s.”
- “Women, minorities, and low-income populations are also targets of specifically tailored strategies. For example: women are targeted through gender-based messages that exploit traditional family roles and tie sugary foods to self-worth, TV shows aimed at African American audiences feature a disproportionate amount of advertising for sugary products, and supermarkets advertising in low-income neighborhoods are more likely to feature coupons and other promotion of processed foods or sweetened beverages.”