The Men Who Made Us Fat (3 of 3)

Jacques Peretti examines assumptions about what is and is not healthy. He also looks at how product marketing can seduce consumers into buying supposed ‘healthy foods’ such as muesli and juices, both of which can be high in sugar.

He speaks with Simon Wright, an ‘organic consultant’ for Sainsbury’s in the 1990s, who explains how the food industry cashed in on the public’s concerns around salmonella, BSE and GM crops. By 1999 the organic industry was worth over £605M, a rise of 232% within two years.

How did the mainstream food producers compete? Peretti speaks with Kath Dalmeny, former policy director at the Food Commission, who explains some of the marketing strategies used by mainstream food producers to keep our custom.

The programme also explores the impact of successive government initiatives and health campaigns, such as the proposal of ‘traffic light labelling’, the introduction of which the food industry lobbied hard against.

But in 2012, when we have an Olympic Games sponsored by McDonalds and Coca Cola, has anything changed?

Third part of three-part series on BBC 2, The Men Who Made Us Fat (July 2012).

When people became concerned at the food they were eating, to the food industry saw it as a new market opening up, the opportunity to market us yet more junk food, only this time labelled as ‘healthy’ and so could be sold at a premium.

Consumers are being mislead into buying food labelled healthy which is not healthy.

Sunny Delight was marketed as a healthy drink for kids. It was sugary water full of colouring and additives.

Supermarkets were keen to promote organic, not because they cared about our health or the health of the planet but because they could get away with a bigger mark up.

By 2001, obesity in the UK had doubled in men and trebled in women. And it was rising

Two years later WHO published a ground-breaking report that said the food industry marketing to children high calorie foods and the increased consumption of sugary drinks was having a major impact on obesity.

Cadbury’s introduced a marketing scheme where kids would gorge themselves on chocolate and get vouchers for sports equipment for their schools. They would need to spend many times what the sports equipment would cost if bought direct and in the meantime get very fat.

Cadbury’s are one of the sponsors of the London 2012 Olympics. As are McDonald’s and Coca-Cola.

The food industry has spent an estimated in excess of one billion euros lobbying the European Parliament to stop effective food labelling that would advise consumers they were eating junk food bad for their health.

A traffic light system makes it very clear to shoppers what food is good, what food is bad. The very last system the food industry wants to see in place.

A Harvard Business School study showed that people would eat a foot long sandwch from Subway thinking they had made a healthy choice (it contained 50% more calories than a Big Mac!). Worse still they would then indulge in a fattening desert thinking it ok because thinking they had just made a healthy eating choice they thought they had some leeway to indulge themselves.

People are getting fatter because they believe they are eating healthier foods.

Health Secretary Andrew Landsley was an executive director of marketing company Profero whose clients include Pizza Hut, Pepsi and Mars. He drew up a policy on obesity with the major players of the food industry. This would be like putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank.

Landsley is in bed with the food industry when it comes to health in much the same way as he is in bed with the private health sector when it comes to destroying the NHS.

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