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Shocking Graphic Reveals Why a Big Mac Costs Less Than a Salad

We’ve got a lot of problems when it comes to our food system, but one of them was clearly articulated with a simple graphic. How do food subsidies affect what we’re eating? Check this out:.
[Image: pyramid1.jpg]This graphic was recently published by the Consumerist, with the few words, “This is why you’re fat.”
The New York Times had a little bit more to say about the graphic, which by the way was put together by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The Times says:
Thanks to lobbying, Congress chooses to subsidize foods that we’re supposed to eat less of.
Of course, there are surely other reasons why burgers are cheaper than salads. These might include production costs, since harvesting apples is probably more naturally seasonal than slaughtering cows (even though both are in demand year-round). Transportation and storage costs might also play a role, as it’s probably easier to keep ground beef fresh and edible for extended periods of time, by freezing it, than cucumbers.
Interesting analysis, but it’s missing the heart of the matter, which PCRM lays out on their own website — the legislation which governs all these subsidies is the controversial farm bill. “The bill provides billions of dollars in subsidies, much of which goes to huge agribusinesses producing feed crops, such as corn and soy, which are then fed to animals,” PCRM writes. “By funding these crops, the government supports the production of meat and dairy products–the same products that contribute to our growing rates of obesity and chronic disease. Fruit and vegetable farmers, on the other hand, receive less than 1 percent of government subsidies.”
What would our society look like if fruit and vegetable products received more of the cut? I’m reminded of the scene from the Oscar-nominated film Food Inc., where a lower-income family grapples with the issue of spending what little money they have on fast food burgers because it is cheaper and more filling than buying fresh vegetables but knowing that they’ll end up likely spending even more down the line in health costs. That’s a decision that no family should have to make.
Clearly our prices for food are skewed. Interestingly, the Times has another graphic about how food prices have changed over the last 30 years, and shockingly it’s fresh fruits and veggies that seem to be getting much more expensive, while most everything else seems to be going down or holding relatively steady.
David Leonhardt, who put together the chart on food pricing says most unhealthy foods have gotten cheaper. Since 1978, soda has gotten 33 percent cheaper but fruits and veggies are over 40 percent more expensive. As an example he says:
The price of oranges, to take one extreme example (not shown in the chart), has more than doubled, relative to everything else. So if in 1978, a bag of oranges cost the same as one big bottle of soda, today that bag costs the same as three big bottles of soda.
And how have these pricing difference played out in terms of human health? Well, obesity may be one place. Leonhardt writes:
In my column this morning, I mention that the average 18-year-old today is 15 pounds heavier than the average 18 year-old in the late 1970s. Adults have put on even more weight during that period. The average woman in her 60s is 20 pounds heavier than the average 60-something woman in the late 1970s. The average man in his 60s is 25 pounds heavier. When you look at the chart, you start to understand why.
Of course there are many factors to obesity, but surely tipping the scales in favor of some of the less healthy ones, doesn’t help. This same scenario is playing out in our schools across the country, too. In a recent story Jill Richardson did for AlterNet about the dismal state of our school lunch program, she writes that we’re basically giving kids the very things we say they shouldn’t be eating:
USDA commodities provided for school lunches turn the USDA’s own food pyramid on its head. Whereas the food pyramid recommends a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, the USDA usually provides schools with meat and dairy products often high in saturated fat. Only 13 percent of commodities provided are fruits and vegetables (including fruit juice and legumes) — and about half of the vegetables provided are potatoes.
We’re already facing an diabetes epidemic where one in three people born after 1980 will get early-onset diabetes and one in two from minority communities. We need changes to our food system, big time, and right away. One of the best places to start is by flipping this food pyramid of subsidies on its head.
From the Center on Media and Democracy:

Healthwashing Soda
Submitted by Anne Landman on March 10, 2010 - 12:09pm.

* corporate campaigns
* obesity
* public relations
* tobacco

antioxidant 7UPAs state and local governments consider taxing soda and sugary drinks to raise money and address the national obesity epidemic, manufacturers of sugary drinks -- like countless other industries -- are taking PR cues from the tobacco industry to defeat the initiatives. The PR tactics they are using are starting to be old hat. By now, everyone should be able to spot them, but just in case you're not up to speed on your corporate PR literacy, here's what to look for:

Step One: Position your product as the solution, not the problem

Coca Cola, Pepsico and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group are running print and TV ads promoting their joint initiative to remove full-calorie, artificially-sweetened drinks from schools. At the same time, Americans Against Food Taxes, the front group for the sugary drink manufacturers, is sending out emails boasting that soda companies have replaced full-calorie soft drinks with "smaller-portion" and "portion-controlled" beverages, real juice and bottled water in schools. Voila'! Their products are no longer the problem, they are part of the solution. Even better, now they'll get kids to buy more bottled water -- which costs them next to nothing to make -- at a dollar a bottle. Score!

Step Two: Broaden the issue to take attention off your products

Broadening the issue is a classic tobacco industry strategy. Big Tobacco distracted people from the health hazards of secondhand smoke by shifting the topic to one of overall indoor air quality and poor ventilation, and by sending experts touring the country promoting "Sick Building Syndrome." This is Philip Morris's "bigger monster" strategy -- generating fear against something else to take attention off your products. The soda companies are doing the same thing here when they try to generate outrage against a soda tax by calling it a tax on "groceries." It isn't a tax on all of your groceries. It's just a tax on sugary drinks. They're trying to press your buttons.

Step Three: Claim it will cost jobs and tank the economy

The soda industry is arguing that a tax on their products will hurt the economy and result in job loss. Grocery workers will lose their jobs, they say, because people will drive to the next city, town or state to buy their soda to avoid paying the tax. (Of course, the answer to that would be a uniform national tax, but they don't mention that.) The tobacco industry routinely pulled out these same economic arguments to try and scare legislators out of taxing cigarettes. It worked for years.

Okay, putting fewer calories in school vending machines is a fine idea, but soda companies could do that without spending a fortune touting that they have done it. All the money spent on ad campaigns could instead go to shareholders, or they could donate it to, say, school libraries instead. But the soda makers' self-congratulatory ad campaigns and press releases just prove that industries keep recycling the same old PR strategies, pulling them out over and over again to try and frighten us into giving them their way. Even worse, they have all been taken from the same playbook -- the cigarette makers'. Their strategies are designed to distract people from the real problems, generate fear, and to encourage people to make decisions based on emotions instead of the facts.

Learning to recognize these PR techniques will inoculate you against them. Just remember, always look behind the arguments to see how your emotions are being manipulated, and take a few extra minutes to get the honest facts.

High-Fructose Public Relations

* corporate campaigns
* obesity
* public relations

Source: USA Today, March 2, 2010

Nutrition experts are battling sugar industry trade groups over over public information about the health hazards of sugar, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and other caloric sweeteners. Nutrition experts say that the sweeteners added to soft drinks and countless other foods and beverages increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, and promote weight gain by adding empty calories to the average diet. Making matters worse for corn refiners, Pepsico is offering "Pepsi Throwback" and "Mountain Dew Throwback," two versions of the popular soda drinks made with "natural sugar" instead of HFCS, and sporting a "rad vintage look." But HFCS manufacturers say their products don't cause health problems or weight gain. To make their point, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) is running a series of TV ads aimed at boosting the image of HFCS and convincing people that they are misled by marketing tactics that imply that products labeled "high-fructose corn syrup-free" are healthier than products with HFCS. CRA also launched, a Web site featuring photos of cute, slender, healthy-looking kids and families happily eating, drinking and riding bikes. The site touts the benefits of HFCS and has articles countering claims that HFCS has any relationship to obesity and other health problems.

Philip Morris Pushing Smoking Hard in Foreign Countries
Submitted by Anne Landman on March 8, 2010 - 4:16pm.

* health
* international
* tobacco

brokeblokeIn the 1950s, more than half the U.S. population smoked. Now that number is down to just 21 percent of adults. As the domestic cigarette market shrinks, tobacco companies are taking their business to the developing world, where they don't have to deal with pesky things like advocacy groups that oppose industry activity, smoking bans, or a populace that is aware of the health hazards of smoking.

Now Philip Morris (PM) is playing hardball in lesser-developed countries to try and preserve their ability to market cigarettes however they want. On February 19, PM filed a lawsuit against Uruguay to try and force that country to withdraw a new law requiring 80 percent of each side of cigarette packs show graphic images depicting the health effects of smoking.

Laws requiring large, pictorial graphic warning labels on cigarette packs are not new. Canada was the first to implement them, starting in 2000. Now 32 countries and the European Union require them. Uruguay, in fact, already had a law requiring half of each side of cigarette packs to contain health warnings. They just wanted to make the pictures a little bigger. That was all it took to get Philip Morris to slap them with a lawsuit.

So why is Philip Morris coming down like a ton of bricks on less developed countries like this? Because as cigarette makers lose their markets in the developed world, they need poorer and less-educated populations to keep expanding their business. That means moving into developing countries, and how they market cigarettes there is often egregiously repugnant.
Cigarette Marketing Strategies in Foreign Countries

Cigarette companies market their products quite differently in foreign countries than they do in the U.S. They've also learned lessons from their past experiences in the U.S. that they apply to help create business other countries.

For example, an undated British American Tobacco marketing plan discusses "Project Z," in which the company planned to sell single cigarettes in Central American countries, as a way to keep poverty-stricken smokers addicted to nicotine. The document says that selling cigarettes one by one will help keep poor smokers "within the habit."
Leveraging Fear as a Marketing Tool

Tobacco companies learned that "health scares" tend to generate new markets for brands people think are safer. They apply this knowledge to actually stimulate health fear among smokers to drive people to buy "low tar" brands. For example, in 1983, Brown & Williamson implemented Project Lodestar in Kuwait, to generate health fears among Kuwaiti smokers to increase sales of their "light" brands in Kuwait. In describing Project Lodestar, B&W lamented that "The lack of growth in [the low tar and nicotine] segment, especially in developing countries, has seriously affected the potential of key BWIT brands..." Project Lodestar's objective was to "Stimulate concern among less aware consumers..." Another Lodestar tactic involved snookering Kuwaiti anti-tobacco groups into helping B&W "stimulate" this "concern":

"Lobby [the Kuwaiti Anti-Smoking] Society to emphasize low delivery brand alternatives for concerned smokers who do not want to quit smoking..."

Uruguay graphic warningUruguayan pictorial warning (Physicians for Smokefree Canada)Philip Morris held the people of Pakistan in similar regard. A 1990 Philip Morris report shows that Pakistani smokers' growing fears and anxieties about health represented little more than a "market opportunity" for PM. In countries where information about the health effects of smoking is scarce, cigarette makers anticipate that, as smokers find out what smoking can do to them, health anxieties will eventually increase, and they start positioning their brands to cash in on those fears.
The More Desperate the Country, the Better the Cigarette Market

Tobacco companies also know that people in poor countries are so consumed with their basic survival needs that they tend to pay less attention to smoking and health issues. The governments and medical establishments in such countries tend to follow suit. A 1980 Philip Morris 5-year plan says,

Smoking and Health is not yet considered to be a crucial issue by the Egyptian Tobacco Industry ... and health is not an issue among the general Egyptian populace who are more concerned with day-to-day survival and consider smoking to be one of their few pleasures in life. The health question ... is not considered to be a priority by the [Egyptian] medical profession ...

Poorer Governments are Friendlier

Poorer governments also tend to be more favorable towards tobacco companies, since they are more heavily dependent on tobacco taxes for income, and thus less apt to restrict tobacco marketing, use and advertising. PM wrote,

In general, little official governmental attention has been paid to smoking and health in Africa and the African Health Ministers, where they exist, have not taken a strong stand on this issue. This is in large part because most [African] governments are preoccupied by other priorities (economic and social development), and because cigarette advertising and tax revenues are important to the African economies. Therefore, governments are not inclined to impose restrictions which might jeopardize this income.

High Illiteracy Rates are Good for Business

A high illiteracy rate is also important to marketing cigarettes because it means a populace that relies less on printed health information, which benefits the tobacco companies. It also clarifies why tobacco companies particularly dislike the use of pictorial health warnings in developing countries: illiterate people will understand them. The following passage from a PM document discusses the high rate of illiteracy in Nigeria, and how health information from the "outside" was starting to affect "the upper class," which presumably had higher literacy rates than the general population:

As not less than seventy percent of the Nigerian population is illiterate, Nigerians form their opinions on smoking and health almost exclusively on the basis of rumor and superstition. The population is becoming more aware of the allegations against smoking largely because of press coverage from outside reports. The prevalent attitude in model developed countries has some impact on the upper class...

Pictorial Warnings Work, and are Necessary

Studies show that pictorial warning labels on cigarette packs are highly effective at conveying health information and reducing smoking, especially in developing countries. It is testament to the power of the American tobacco lobby that we don't have them yet in the U.S., and that we are running so far behind other nations in this regard. After all, Australia, Canada, Mexico, India, Great Britain and the European Union have them, among others. I strongly support Uruguay and other countries fighting to inform their people about the health hazards of smoking and protect their populations from tobacco industry aggression, and I support their struggles -- and ours here on this country -- to better inform people about the tobacco industry's predatory marketing.