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8. FEB 9: Unit 2: Critique of the US Industrial Food System

Assigned Work

  • Moss, Salt, Sugar, Fat, Ch. 4, "Is It Cereal or Candy?"
  • If you have not seen "Food, Inc." please watch it during this unit (video file in Shared folder)


  • Lecture from: Lawless, Kristin. Formerly Known as Food, C8 "Food Choice" (197-218) (20)
  • Discussion of food extrusion and industrial fiber

Lawless, Kristin. Formerly Known as Food, Chapter 8, "Food Choice"

  • We are "upside down" on food
  • Ironically, dietary advice has promoted processed and industrial foods. Food companies use nutritional messaging to sell food that is not, ultimately, part of a "healthy pattern of eating."
  • Concentration of companies (10 companies control almost every food and beverage brand, 6 control 90% of seed market), controls of foods
  • Poor disproportionately exposed to BPA. Should you worry about BPA? Mayo Clinic [1] or American Chemistry Council [2]. You decide.
  • Poor have double the diabetes rate. p. 200 other SES related food/health outcomes. Point: Dietary disease disproportionately affects the poor in the US, who also have less access to health care.
  • Advertising effects: logos stimulate taste buds. targeted advertising to poor and non-white populations. Beyonce campaign in 2013.
  • Thesis: Am food companies have created a kind of acceptance (normalization) of industrial foods and a set of ideas about health and nutrition that are largely the product of advertising by industrial food companies over about 40 years. - food elites and food desert dwellers alike. interesting. Elites are marketed "organic Goldfish" "Organic cocoa puffs"
  • At Occupy Wall street protests: vegan oatmeal from McDonalds, veggie sandwiches from Subway.
  • Households over $60k eat the most fast food.
  • Thesis: Am food companies also divide us, stigmatizing whole foods as food for elites. McD's commercial as example. [Healthy food culture is often stigmatized as extreme, counter-cultural, and obsessive.] [3]
  • Part of the method is to opposed the Nanny state, while normalizing industrial food versions of health claims.
  • Bloomberg soda case
  • 208: Background to industrial food advertising. Targeted women ('60s): ind food higher SES, part of the future. Critique of food movement for elitism and paternalism.

Isolated Fiber in Industrial Foods

  • Fiber Facts about Cereal
  • And you would think "fiber is fiber," but no. Isolated fiber. Also, an example of "nutritionism". Real fiber needs are not a fad.
  • Intact (soluble and insoluble) vs. Isolated (synthetically produced) - Resistant starch, polydextrose, indigestible dextrins. Research question: Are these MACs? Guessing not. FDA FAQ on dietary fiber. Notice the list of synthetic ingredients that keep getting added to "dietary fiber".
  • Isolated fibers "... lack the array of vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants and plant chemicals found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables and that are known to benefit health, says Jennifer Anderson, professor of food science and human nutrition at Colorado State University in Fort Collins." [4]
  • From the FDA site:
  • Q: If a product currently contains added isolated or synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates that do not meet the definition of dietary fiber, what is the deadline for manufacturers to modify product labeling?
  • A: FDA has issued a final rule to extend the compliance dates for the Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts label final rule and the Serving Size final rule from July 26, 2018, to Jan. 1, 2020, for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales. Manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales have an extra year to comply—until Jan. 1, 2021.
  • It appears that the FDA includes many isolated fiber ingredients that it deems as "dietary fiber", but it also moving toward requiring labeling of isolated fiber that does not meet it's definition of "dietary fiber".
  • Avoid isolated fiber or other synthetic fiber.

Digression on Food Extrusion

  • Food extrusion of cereals and snack can reduce complexity of carbs and raise the glycemic index of the carbs in these foods. [5]
  • So, if extrusion damages nutrition, what about pasta? Why doesn't it have a high glycemic index like breakfast cereals?
  • "In pasta products, gluten forms a viscoelastic network that surrounds the starch granules, which restricts swelling and leaching during boiling. Pasta extrusion is known to result in products where the starch is slowly digested and absorbed (59,60). Available data on spaghetti also suggest that this product group is a comparatively rich source of resistant starch (61). The slow-release features of starch in pasta probably relates to the continuous glutenous phase. This not only restricts swelling, but possibly also results in a more gradual release of the starch substrate for enzymatic digestion. Pasta is now generally acknowledged as a low glycemic index food suitable in the diabetic diet. However, it should be noted that canning of pasta importantly increases the enzymic availability of starch, and hence the glycemic response (62).[6]

Moss, Ch. 4, "Is It Cereal or Candy?"

  • Origin story of commercial cereals
  • John Harvey Kellog vs. Will Kellog. Drama at Battle Creek Michigan. Will adds sugar. No turning back.
  • note early ad claims by Post for Grape-Nuts and Postum -- shows something about food psychology and tendency to fad diets.
  • Cereal or Candy?
  • $660 million to $4.4 billion 1970 to mid 80s.
  • breakfast cereal growth coincided with increased labor participation by women. Easy meal to eliminate cooking for, especially with cheap milk.
  • Ira Shannon, Dental activist!, measures sugar content on breakfast cereals after Feds refuse. 74
  • Jean Mayer, Harvard nutritionist, big deal, early obesity research. title for chapter from an essay of his. urged moving cereals over 50% sugar to the candy aisle.
  • note nomenclature issue in the public policy discussion: breakfast cereals v. breakfast foods. who cares?
  • Ad bans and the Nanny State
  • 76: Key theoretical claim: The breakfast cereal industry responded to concern over sugar in part by developing market campaign to children and by putting marketing in charge of product development (85)
  • 76ff: political story of sugar in 1977 -- FTC over responds to concern about marketing of cereals to kids by banning all advertising to kids, arguably overplaying their hand. Battle between advertising lobby and FTC. advertising ban failed. Washington Post labels it "the National Nanny". role of gov't issue. "social engineering". still, FTC report was credible and damning on the topic of advertising sugar to kids. note the industry documents showing the industry's effort to "engineer" their consumer.
  • 2/3 price of the cereal is in the advertising (!).
  • 1990s and post-truth advertising
  • 1990's competition from store brands -- 82ff: note value of minute market share movements. "product news" - continual change in marketing. Kellog is losing out at one point, p. 85: "This team (to address market share loss) would turn the traditional Kellogg way of creating products on its head. Instead of having the food technicians toil away in their labs experimenting with tastes and textures, the marketing folks hunted for ideas that suited the advertising needs at Kellogg first and worried about pleasing the palates of consumers second. Interesting. Possible thesis: We entered a "post truth" era in the food industry before politics.
  • Moss finishes chapter with their strategic response: concept of "permission" (when a taste is close enough for the consumer to say that had an experience of a real thing through the taste, example: the taste of rice crispy treats in a cereal. "We didn't have to be literal. We just had to have the flavor spot on." (87)
  • Key theme from Kellog's market share loss: This is a real crisis for a food company. 87ff. CinnaMon/Bad appple campaign
  • odd twist - the "Cinnamon" and "bad apple" commercials. [[7]]. Best one was taken down! Here's a page with some others. Images from Bad apple commercial
  • Frosted Mini-Wheats became "brain food". fraudulent research. 91-92 Commercial in this NPR story Also, check out these oldies. [8]
  • Kellogg even tried comparing kids who ate Mini-Wheats to kids who skipped breakfast!
  • The Kellogg story reinforces the idea that food may be a difficult business to subject to the demands of publicly traded corporations. (Note: Doesn't mean food can't benefit from other market realizations.)