HeadCount Food & Farm Policy Issue Update: The Unsettling Truth About Food & Advertising

It's about time! The media has turned some serious attention on the marketing practices behind so-called "organic" food products. The limited and often inaccurate information available to consumers regarding food makes it difficult to know whether our dollars are supporting the type of industry we can believe in.

  • The biggest shocker came last week when Mother Jones reported that most commercial brands of veggie burgers are made with hexane, a neurotoxin used to separate soy protein from fat. The EPA-registered air pollutant is not currently monitored by the FDA. Brands using hexane include Amy's Kitchen, Boca Burger, Garden Burger, and Morningstar Farms.
  • Coca-Cola took some heat for sponsoring a heart health campaign through its Diet Coke brand.Whole Foods has received yet more bad press with the findings that it mislabeled conventional produce as organic.  Walmart is also in the hot seat, facing a lawsuit claiming misuse of organic labeling.  You may expect this type of marketing to be regulated; and you would be right to do so.  The National Organic Program, a program of the USDA, does in fact regulate organic labeling.  But it seems that these would-be 'organic police' have been slacking off lately, allowing some retailers to mislead customers without facing any consequences.
  • Americans are very susceptible to advertising - especially American children - and retailers know it. Arecent analysis of junk food marketing tactics explains that one out of three fast food trips occur due to a child's nagging. Marketers fully intended on using that "pester power" to boost sales. The health effects of these ads are serious. A study conducted by the Scripps Research Institute found that junk food is addictive in ways similar to narcotic drugs.
  • It's not just retailers that are getting attention. School lunches continue to be scrutinized as the Child Nutrition Act moves through Congress. Check out Fed Up with Lunch, an entertaining blog by a mom who eats school lunch every day to expose the utter gross-ness of it all.
  • The Obama administration is taking steps to improve the resources available to consumers concerning food. Buried in the 900-page new Health Care Legislation is a provision requiring calorie labeling on fast food menus. New York City has been pioneering this practice since 2008 and has seen a modest shift in consumer behavior.
  • HeadCount artist Jack Johnson is focusing on sustainable agriculture and raising awareness about community and school garden projects through his upcoming summer tour. Local organizations committed to that mission will be on hand at each of his U.S. concert dates, and his All at Once community website will highlight the work of these groups and promote ways that each individual can make a difference.

Keep yourself updated on these issues by following HeadCount on Twitter or checking out our Food and Farm Policy Issue page. Also, take a look at the rest of our blog (or write for it). Email your Senators and Congressional representative with your opinions via our legislative action page. Tell them that as a consumer and as an American, you deserve to know what's in your food!