Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Nutrition conference: no unhealthy foods, just unhealthy consumers. Hubert Linders, CI Information Adviser, finds this hard to swallow.

Last week I participated in the most important conference for nutritionists in Latin America to officially launch the PAHO policy statement on reducing salt intake. About 2000 professionals and students were in Santiago to learn about diets, micronutrients, functional foods, food safety, or malnutrition, which not only means that there are people sick or dying because they don't have enough to eat. Increasingly it is used for overweight and obese people who eat too much processed food with high levels of salt, sugar and fat.

According to the industry, there are no good or bad foods, only unhealthy diets and a sedentary life. If that's true, why is fast food offered in huge portions? Or are fruit juices produced with flavours that don’t come close to the taste of the fruit shown on the packaging?

Asking companies, present with samples of their products, they told me ‘this is what the consumer wants.’ I very much doubt that. Does the industry produce what consumers want or do we eat what they offer because there are almost no other options? True, there are products called ‘light’, with less salt and better quality, but why do they always have to be more expensive?

If the industry produces what we want, why spend billions of dollars a year in advertising? On several occasions during the congress I heard that nutritionists have to educate consumers, called ‘patients’, because they don't know the truth. It seems obvious that they do not, simply by the fact that food ‘rich’ in salt, sugars and fats are more and more aggressively marketed in all media including TV, radio, Internet and on billboards, kiosks, schools and sporting or cultural events.

All this marketing is paid for by an industry that would have us believe that it is only our fault that almost all of us suffer from overweight and diseases like hypertension, while they want to ‘hook’ us on salty, sugary and greasy foods as young as possible. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

1 comment:

  1. The "industry's" motive is profit. That's it. Period. What can they sell and make the most profit? They are not interested in what is healthy or harmful. Foods that are rich in salt, sugar and fats are produced cheaply, sold cheaply, marketed aggressively (especially to children) and very profitable. In addition, because of weak or no regulations controlling processed food producers they add insult to injury by marketing this garbage food as "lite," "a healthy choice," etc. It is despicable.