More Thoughts on Food

As a follow up to my post on Food the other day, here are some items I found in the news this week.

The first is an interview with Barry Glassner, author of The Gospel of Food, broadcast on NPR’s Marketplace on 1/9/07.

KAI RYSSDAL: This might not be something you think about when you walk into your local supermarket. But as you wheel that shopping cart down the aisle trying to figure out what’s for dinner, you’re at the receiving end of an enormous marketing campaign. It’s not unlike clothes or cars. Manufacturers trying to get consumers to buy — and to buy into — a certain brand or model to make them feel better about themselves. Author Barry Glassner says food today is way more complicated than just You are what you eat.

BARRY GLASSNER: I think we think that what we eat and what other people eat tells us a whole lot about who they are, who we are. And I think a lot of what we pay for in our food these days is not just the basic food but some kind of image of ourselves that we get by eating one way rather than another.

… the food industry depends on [people spending and spending]. And they do a great job with it. And they do it in some really clever ways so they can get us to pay more for less. So if it’s low-fat or low-carb or low-sugar — whatever we’re into — we’ll pay more money for that.

I think what we’re paying for, for most food these days, is a story. A story about the food, a story about ourselves. That, you know, somehow if I eat something that is labeled as cage-free — in the case of eggs — that I’m saying something about myself. I’m doing something great for the world.

… food has become a lot more like fashion now. We don’t like to talk about that. That’s not widely talked about. That’s one reason I wrote the book, is to sort of expose that. What people like to say is, “Oh, no, no, it’s all about health. It’s all about nutrition. It’s all about being righteous.” No. It’s mostly about who am I, and who am I trying to say I am?

Listen to the entire interview here.

The second item came from All Things Considered: “A new study, co-authored by Harvard researchers and analysts from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, suggests there’s a systematic bias in nutrition studies funded by food companies.”

From the Boston Herald:

“We found evidence that’s strongly suggestive of bias,” said Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Children’s Hospital Boston who led the work, which was published Monday in the online science journal PLoS Medicine. The consumer advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest also participated.

Biased science can affect consumer behavior, doctor recommendations and even federal regulation of marketing claims for such products, Ludwig said.

“I don’t blame researchers for this problem. I think most are highly ethical and dedicated to science. The problem is that when government underfunds nutrition research, industry money becomes hard to resist,” he said.

The full audio from ATC is here.

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1 Comment

Filed under Consumer Culture

One response to “More Thoughts on Food

  1. otherdeb

    Found this group on MSN, via an article MP Dunleavey wrote about a thread on her “Women in Red” board. The discussion is fascinating, and goes far beyond the “let’s clip coupons” stuff. URL is http://moneycentral.msn.com/community/message/thread.asp?board=womeninred&ThreadId=210692&BoardName=Hide&header=SearchOnly&Footer=Show&BoardsParam=Page%3D1&LinkTarget=_parent&pagestyle=money1&ForumId=18

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