Big Food: what they say vs. what they do

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The food, beverage, and chain restaurant industries say they're on the side of health, but their actions show otherwise.

Experts agree that junk food is a huge contributor to skyrocketing rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, and even strokes. And food and beverage companies spend billions of dollars promoting unhealthy foods virtually everywhere kids go. The Interagency Working Group on Foods Marketed to Children (IWG) has proposed reasonable nutrition guidelines to help provide a model for companies that market to kids. Unfortunately, the food industry and media companies are working to get Congress to stop the IWG from finalizing these sensible recommendations.

When we put children first, the plan of action is clear: companies should market the foods that keep kids healthy, not sugary cereals and other junk food. The IWG guidelines will help to do just that.

What they SAY
What they DO

Pepsi and Coke say they are removing sugar drinks from schools and giving parents better information...

Pepsi and Coke Agree to Remove Sugar Drinks from Schools:

Beverage Industry Introduces "Clear on Calories Campaign":

So why are they suing health departments trying to give families more information about sodas?

The American Beverage Industry (ABA) has begun a series of legal attacks against several health departments over efforts to educate communities about limiting consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages:

Exclusive: Soda makers escalate attacks over obesity. Lisa Baertlein and Dan Levine, Reuters: 7/20/11

Food companies like Kraft and Campbell's say they are removing salt from their products in support of customer's health...

Campbell's cutting Salt by lowering salt in almost 50 soups:

Campbell's lowering sodium in almost 50 soups. Geoff Mulvihill, USA Today: 2/18/2008

Kraft and Pepsi Co. Cutting Salt by 10% in All Products:

Yet they put the salt right back in when profits start to waver:

Campbell's adding salt back to its soups to increase sales:

Campbell adds salt to spur soup sales. Martinne Geller, Reuters: 7/12/11.

Food companies say they are developing new package labels because they want to help customers make more healthful choices...

Food Industries "Nutrition Keys" Labels:

Food Industries "Smart Choices" Labels:

So why are they using the front of packaging to deceive and confuse customers into believing their junk food products are healthy?

cover_claiming_health84% of "better for you" products studied didn't meet basic nutritional standards.




Over half of the most aggressively marketed children's foods advertising fruit on the packaging actually contain no fruit ingredients whatsoever.

Beverage companies agreed to stop promoting their products in commercials during kid's television shows...

The Coca-Cola Company and Pepsi Co. agreed to stop marketing to children under 12 worldwide:

Coke, Pepsi Vow to Eliminate Worldwide Marketing to Kids Under 12. Patricia Odell, Promo: 5/21/08.

Instead, they place Cokes on primetime shows like American Idol-where the average child views four Coke appearances every week:

Beverage companies use product placement during kids' favorite shows to get around regulation:

Fast-food industry is quietly defeating Happy Meal bans. Sharon Bernstein, Los Angeles Times: 5/18/11

And produce commercials like these that still appeal to children:

Pepsi ads starring Santa:


Coke says they only show parents and kids together - because parents decide what kids drink...

The Coca-Cola Company only shows parents and children together in marketing:

A/V Center - Beverage Benefits: "Abby Rodgers, VP, Sustainability Strategy and Communications: Strive to offer beverages for every lifestyle and occasion while providing quality that consumers trust."

Then why do they go after kids-alone-right on their company homepage?

The Coca-Cola Company homepage features a child drinking a coke.

Fast food companies say they want to offer more nutritious options for children...

McDonald's to Make Happy Meals More Healthy:

Fast food Chains to offer healthy choices for kids:

So why are they working behind the scenes to prohibit laws aimed at improving public health?

Fast food companies convincing state legislature's to pass laws which would prohibit local governments from passing laws aimed at improving public health (such as happy meal toy bans and trans fat regulations):

Fast-food industry is quietly defeating Happy Meal bans. Sharon Bernstein, Los Angeles Times: 5/18/11

Proposed City Bill Would Ban Toys With Some Fast Foods. Ruschell Boon, NY 1: 4/5/11.

And developing new marketing schemes to entice children?

Websites developed to advertise to children in new ways:


The food and beverage industry says they want to be part of the solution by only marketing healthful foods to kids...

Industry releases new standards on food marketing to Children:

Will Food Industry's New Marketing Guidelines Satisfy the Feds? Business trying to prevent regulation on advertising to kids. Katy Bachman, Adweek: 7/15/11

Statement from the Association of National Advertisers:

So why are they conducting bogus studies, and pre-empting government regulation with their own weaker standards to assure that they can still market unhealthful products?

Industry conducted a study to show that if the government's proposed voluntary guidelines on food marketing to children were implemented there would be a loss of 74,000 jobs and $28 million in revenue:

Assessing the Economic Impact of Restricting Advertising for Products That Target Young Americans

The industries' newer, weaker standards introduced as a means to pre-empt voluntary government guidelines:

Putting Nutrition into Nutrition Standards for Marketing to Kids: How Marketed Foods Measure Up to the Interagency Working Group's Proposed Nutrition Principles for Food Marketed to Children

Kellogg's says they will only market healthy cereals to kids...

Kellogg's representative talks about their initiatives

But further investigation shows most cereals marketed to children are still junk:

Food Industry Marketing unhealthy cereals to kids