Health & Fitness Column

Food execs admit their products are unhealthy

By John Taylor | Feb 26, 2013

Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Michael Moss, was featured in the “New York Times” this week for writing an investigative report that chronicled how major American food and beverage companies spent the last 30 years trying to make their products cheaper and more addictive through unethical science and marketing practices.
Moss interviewed 300 current and former employees at Coke, Frito-Lay, and Kraft who explained how their companies used chemicals to help make consumers addicted to their product, and how marketing strategies changed to influence low-income families to purchase these unhealthy items.
Based on these interviews, Moss learned that Kraft Lunchables, the prepackaged meal that is marketed towards children and busy moms, has earned $1 billion in sales since their debut in the late 1980’s, yet contains high amounts of sugar and sodium.
Kraft, whose parent company is Phillip Morris, currently markets Lunchables to kids with the motto, “All day, you gotta do what they say, but lunchtime is all yours.” Kraft executives developed this campaign with the hope that Lunchables would gain significant brand awareness when children ask their parents to purchase food items for lunch at school.
So in a nutshell, not only are Lunchables unhealthy for your children to eat, but the folks at Kraft are marketing their product so kids will tell their parents they need to buy these prepackaged boxes made by the same parent company who runs a large tobacco company.
I guess Phillip Morris is used to telling consumers what to purchase, right?
Frito-Lay is also guilty of engaging in questionable marketing practices. Though the company earns $3 billion in yearly sales, Frito-Lay was worried about lawsuits ruining their financial position after a 1988 study found their snacks led to cardiovascular disease.
In response, Frito-Lay executives removed the ingredients that were linked to heart attacks and strokes, and hired 500 chemists and psychologists to conduct research in order to make their snack foods more addictive. This increase in personnel and research costs Frito-Lay $30 million per year.
The results found that people will become more addicted to food products based on crunch, mouth feel, and aroma. The scientists even created a device that simulated a chewing mouth to perfect the construction of chips. After thousands of trials, the scientists found that chips with a snapping point of four pounds per square inch when bitten tend to be more addictive.
This specification is currently used when Frito-Lay produces Lay’s, Doritos, non-puffed Cheetos, and Fritos.
An exception to this chip-construction policy is Frito-Lay’s Puffed Cheetos. This product is equally as addictive as the other chip products, but instead of being created with a snapping point, the Puffed Cheeto is designed to melt quickly in the mouth, thus influencing a person to think the item vanishes. As a result, a person will be more likely to keep eating Puffed Cheetos without realizing the number of calories they are ingesting.
So let me get this right. People have been eating Frito-Lay products for decades, but until the late 1980’s, those products contained ingredients that caused premature death. While the ingredients were removed, Frito-Lay executives decided the best way to minimize sales loses was to get a bunch of chemists together, and figure out how to make their products more addicting.
Anybody else have a problem with this?
Unline Frito-Lays, Coke’s Coca-Cola Classic hasn’t changed their recipe in the last 25 years, but they have been criticized for their marketing campaigns aimed at poor neighborhoods. In New Orleans, one of the poorest major U.S. cities, Coke sales are nearly 100 percent higher than the nation average, mainly due to the large print and television advertising campaigns in the Crescent City. Coke also exports smaller, more affordable bottles to poorer countries in order to generate more sales revenue.
I’m all for capitalism and consumer freedom, and the executives at Coke are obviously smart, so I’m sure they believe dominating sales in poorer areas will help their company’s bottom line. Still, something seems wrong about this practice, right?
I’m just left wondering what’s next? Will Frito-Lay figure out how to make tap water addictive after they buy they rights to charge households for it? Will Coke figure out how to make riding in a car more addictive by making air freshners last for years?
If only they could have made a cologne that made me irresistible to women when I was in high school. Get your scientists on that one, because I really could have used it when I was 16.

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