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S6 E2 –Should we ban marketing around ‘unhealthy’ food?

There are so many policies already in place limiting the marketing around unhealthy food. But is it enough? We chat about whether there should be a ban on marketing of certain products and if it should be treated in a similar way to the advertising standards around alcohol and cigarettes.

Best soundbite: “You are YouTube Ben, you’re the face of YouTube!” – Mike Huttlestone

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  1. tjmarskbb

    Ireland is banning alcohol adverts in cinemas….meanwhile in the US cinemas are building bars inside them.

  2. Zoej10

    I think the topic around alcohol advertisement is incredibly interesting, as well as important. I’ve spent many years and written a few papers around British drinking culture and alcohol consumption in general. It continues to fascinate me that, over the years we have gradually (as a nation) become stricter on things we know are harmful to our health and have devastating long-term impacts on our bodies, society and the nhs. Specifically things such as tobacco, sugar, obesity related illnesses etc. In spite of this, alcohol seems to be something that has avoided this intense scrutiny and regulation, over the years and this is most likely down to the fact that… alcohol is quite nice… We organise entire events around drinking, it’s a way to show that you’re sociable and if you don’t drink you are quite often looked at unfavourably. During freshers week at university for example, if you don’t partake in the drinking culture you will likely be left out and when you’re trying to make friends during the first week of uni, that’s not ideal.

    It’s no secret that alcohol is not good for us, generally speaking, but unlike smoking it’s not something that affects those around us in that same way second hand smoke does, for example. And yet, alcohol causes more deaths per year than all other drugs combined and is almost three times as harmful than cocaine and tobacco. In addition to this, alcohol related issues costs the nhs round £3.5billion a year, which when you compare that to the £5billion for obesity related issues, that’s quite substantial. In spite of all this, alcohol continues to be widely advertised and while I don’t necessarily think it should be banned, I do think it’s hypocritical to restrict/heavily tax tobacco and sugar, but not alcohol.

    I think, as with many of the issues raised in the episode, education is always key; but I do think that more regulations should be put in place, like they’re doing in Ireland and like they’ve done with tobacco products, when it comes to alcohol and the advertising surrounding this

  3. Anita

    Mentioning and treating good quality olive oil in the same breath as food-like products soaking in some chemically extracted, super inflammatory “vegetable” oil, because of some vague umbrella legislation, just breaks my heart. And hey, our most precious organ needs fat to function. Of course, I’m not familiar with the exact legal wording, but you guys – in just a few minutes – seem to have put more thought into this issue than the actual legislators 😀

  4. Nettan_Juni

    I don’t own a TV, so most of my commercial is from YouTube adds mostly, but I did watch some TV and maybe it was the time of day, but it was mostly casino adds and loan companies.

    But the food commercials I have seen here in Sweden it has mostly been about how the nonmeat burgers taste like meat burgers and McDonald’s focused on the environment, like the fact that you can charge your electric car at almost all of their restaurants.

    The only thing I can think of is fast-food chains sending out coupons, but that’s it.
    I don’t know if I’m so used to adds these days from everywhere that I don’t see them anymore or if it’s the different culture here.

    Despite this we still have a weight problem and a lot of ppl eat fast food. The positive thing though is that we get free school lunches until we graduate at 18-20, before they go to university or similar. And they try to serve good food to all students.

    And now I miss school lunch…

    • Margusenock

      Exactly the same on Finland 🙂 it’s not you being used. It’s a totally different culture and I truly enjoy it!

      • Nettan_Juni

        Yay for the Nordic countries 😉 I just wish there was less casino adds, there were so many!

        • Margusenock

          Hahahah true!! I forgot :)))) I also find it a bit bothering as a mom amount of nudity in day time on tv. I had to control too much what kids watch after school….

      • Nettan_Juni

        While in Sweden, we made a children song called Snoppen och Snippan…. I’m so glad that I don’t have children in this time and age, it’s hard enough to have young nieces 😛

        • Margusenock

          Oh my god, hahahaha I cannot believe that :))) children song??!! Are you kidding me 🤦‍♀️😂😂 I have wasted my childhood 😂😂😂😂

      • Nettan_Juni

        Nope, I wish I was and it was really popular! Over 9 million views on Youtube and even Conan O’Brien talked about that. It was a few years ago though. I’m not really surprised though, at least here in Sweden we’re very open about our bodies. Which is why we find the fear of women’s breast in USA so freaking hilarious! 🤣

        • Margusenock

          :)))) sorry for being off topic, Sorted 🙂

          True. In Nordic countries with all the sauna cultures and people being in a way more open, human body is considered more natural and normal (I mean, in Finland friends go to sauna together (man and woman) totally naked and nobody stares or discusses that.). But I still feel that Some aspects shall be less open. It affects a very intimate part of our life… it’s easy to cross the line. I don’t know how to express myself now properly in English. I hope you understand me.

      • Nettan_Juni

        So more sauna for the people? 😉

        So sorry SortedFOOD team for us going way off topic and in such a way 😂

    • Margusenock

      On the other side…. educational video perhaps? I mean, it should be done one way or another, not sure that this is the right one because even I started giggling. Imagine a group of kids 😂

  5. theanita1

    In developing countries, advertising for companies such as Coca-Cola are proliferant, especially as they sponsor so many things we take for granted – e.g. shop signs, seating and umbrellas at restaurants, napkin holders etc. I also found that in most places it was cheaper (and safer) to drink soft drinks than water – after a year in Kenya I ended up ridiculously addicted and was drinking over a litre of soft drink a day.

    • Bebbrell

      The safety thing is a concern. I remember seeing Fanta deliveries to remote communities in Goa (India) when I was there. Glass bottles of Fanta delivered in their thousands because it was safer that the water.

      • alm477

        I mean, not too terribly long ago alcohol was the safest option to drink in Europe and the US…

  6. Margusenock

    I think it shall not be banned completely. But kids YouTube channels and tv time I would appreciate to have with less “unhealthy” advertisement (and in here I also mean ads with toys that promote certain values/life styles…. I am a bit of an old school type of woman).

    I do agree on 100% that government and organizations shall invest into education. The more we know, the more we accept and understand.

    Regarding Barry’s comments about bio products for his child. I fully support you in it. I am trying my best in terms of teaching my kids healthy food habits myself. When living in Finland we had one day for sweets (usually Saturday). It is actually like a country thing when kids buy sweets on that particular day. Our schools and kindergartens were doing the same. No sweets aloud. Kids always had a glass of milk and water. No juice. No sparkling water. No chips. The biggest thing would be raisins and pop corn when there was a party. Every morning they would have an amazing porrage with fruits or berries, soup was a usual lunch meal, jugurt as a snack and they dip carrots in it. I mean, as a mom, I was super happy!

    Now due to work I have moved to Spain with the kids. And here everything is different. All my efforts to teach them to consume sweets in moderation and eat vegetables – vanished. I pay for lunch in school for my kids. They are 4 and 8. They are served chips (not fried potato, but Pringle’s type of chips) every week. They have cookies and cakes. Besides lunch since kids stay in school from 8 am till 18:30 I pack them breakfast and evening snack. My daughter tells me that I am a bad mom because all other kids have packs (!) of chocolate donats and muffins. And I put apple, carrots, Sandwitch and maybe some crackers. Every time some kid has a birthday parents bring sweets. My younger kid has issues there because he refuses to eat in school. He is not used to it. It’s a whole new culture. And I think that a lot comes with lack of understanding.

    I do not see active ads for sweets though. We don’t put tv on at home so I have no idea what is happening there. But my feeling is that government and school really needs to encourage kids and their parents to eat better. I know a lot of families that do care and I know that some people don’t leave kids in school for lunch (they go home and eat there), so there are solutions.

    I love Spain in any case and I am super happy to be here but I feel a bit sad about changes in our eating habits …

    So to sum up – education is the key. Ban is not the solution.

    • Bebbrell

      I’m sure this doesn’t apply to a blanket cover of “Spain” and no doubt there are examples all over the world like this. However, I’m completely on your side… and your children will thankyou for it in years to come. I wonder… is it possible to encourage kids from a young age to see dates, dried fruit as treats? (Note: they are STILL high in sugar… but substantially better than candy). I did read that in parts of Scandinavia when it is kids’ birthdays, rather than bring in sweets for the class they bring in olives or cherry tomatoes or similar. That sounds much better… but can it take off whilst the confectionary advertising is put on a pedestal all around us?

      • Margusenock

        Oh that embarrassing moment when I had to use dictinuary to understand some words 🙂

        My sister tried limiting sweets for her first child since day one. Until about 5 years old the kid did not try anything with confectionary sugar inside. All natural. So fruits were the treats. Now she is 18 and has no interest in sweets. My sister’s second child was raised with a different attitude and had sugary stuff quite often. She can eat a can of Nutella without blinking, she is 15 now. So based on this experience I think it is related to sugar addiction topic.

        After these last 2 podcasts I have started analyzing my childhood and childhood of people I know. And I do think that we can turn dates and raisins into treats … but …. somehow hmmmm…. is it right? If dried fruits and nuts will become treats, shall we then ban candies, pastry or cakes? I mean, diet shall be balanced and dried fruits and nuts are an essential part of it. Somehow in my head treat is something “unusual”, something I shall not eat/do more or less on a regular basis. I don’t know… a bit confused here. Maybe I have a different understanding of the word “treat”….what do you think?

        Regarding Nordic countries. I think a lot comes from the way we present the information and how we educate people. In Russian we have a saying “the forbidden fruit is always tastier”. So the more we “forbid” the more people will want. I think that the best way to eliminate negative impact from constant unhealthy ads around, is to turn some of the forbidden things (sugar, salt, bad fats) into a small part of normal. I hope I express myself correctly.

        This is the way I see they do in Finland (I have spent there last 10 years of my life and this is just my opinion compared to my native country, all mentioned below is about food, beverages and alcohol is a totally different story). They actively promote good food habits on tv and in magazines, they have an amazing pre school and school material about these topics. The information is presented in a very fun and friendly way. It feels cool to eat good. It’s like a life style that people are proud of. Quite inspiring. I did not see that in Russia unfortunately, maybe now it’s is different…I hope. Can’t say about Spain yet because 6 months is not enough.

        As a result, people have good attitude towards their food and are not bothered too much with ads.

        Also I think a lot of impact has general stability of people’s life and in country in general. When life is stable, your decisions are different than when you don’t know what to expect tomorrow or in 1 year. This is something that plays a huge role in our lives. And unfortunately to get over past negative experience people need years if not generations.

  7. ViqueRu

    The whole alcohol advertising in Ireland is interesting, but I have a feeling that the companies will go the same route it was in Russia, where you can’t advertise alcohol on TV. Beer companies, both local and international, advertise their non-alcoholic beers as much as they want.

    • Bebbrell

      Ahhh – so they still get the brand and visual identity of the bottles out there? A smart but annoying get around!

  8. Dimi

    I wonder what information Ben has about marketing of unhealthy foods in Australia? I haven’t really noticed much in that space so I had a bit of a look around and the only thing I’ve found is that in QLD the government has banned junk food advertising on all public owned spaces, but nothing in the rest of the country as yet. Also, from what I saw in my research, we don’t really have any effective ban on junk food advertising to children either. We have some pretty ineffective rules at the moment. For one, they only apply to programs rated C (Childrens) or P (pre-school) in the broadcasting regulations and also, they are broad and only one applies to food advertising . Junk food can still be advertised at these times as long as they don’t 1) Advertise promotions such as “free toys with purchase” 2) Use celebrities or popular characters to endorse any products and 3) (the only food specific rule) They can’t contain any misleading or incorrect information about the nutritional value of foods or beverages, so claim a food is healthy or good for you when it’s not. These are so vague and unhelpful they might as well not exist.

    To focus for a second longer on children, I found this great research article while snooping around online, it’s from a few years ago, but it talks about marketing junk food to children and also goes onto how ads can effect children. I think one of the more interesting points was about how children see and understand ads.
    “Children’s understanding of advertising:
    -Up to four years: advertisements seen as entertainment
    -Ages six to seven years: believe advertisements provide information
    -Ages seven to eight years: cannot distinguish between information and intent to persuade
    -Ages ten to twelve years: can understand motives and aims of advertising, but most unable to explain sales techniques.”
    Marketing obesity? Junk food, advertising and kids” https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1011/11rp09

    Should ad’s be banned outright? I don’t know. It’s complicated, because we talk about free will, and choices and a free society, and how much of a nanny state do we want? But also, advertising isn’t just seen by grown, healthy, well educated adults that can make informed decisions about their lives. It is seen by kids, people with disabilities, people from underprivileged backgrounds that don’t have a great education history etc. And as you all pointed out, we can all sometimes be swayed by advertising, even when we DO know better. I think Ben hit the nail on the head when he said “you can teach, you can’t control” AGAIN; Education, Education, Education. I think, instead of spending money on advertising “healthy” food to children on TV and online etc, where you are outnumbered 30 to 1, the governments money is definitely better spent putting programs and initiatives in place in schools to teach kids more about health and nutrition.
    Here in Australia, I work for one of the major supermarket chains “Woolworths” and although, as I said in my comment on last weeks podcast, our top selling, money making items are definitely the cokes and the unhealthy stuff, our tag line is “the fresh food people” and our fresh Fruit and Veg department is known as the Flagship of every store and is the first thing you see when you walk into any store. Now, there’s a lot of (for lack of a better term) “marketing wank” involved in that, because once you walk past the fruit and veg section you are bombarded with massive displays of chips, and coke and chocolate and high sugar cereals. And when you flick through the weekly specials most of the pages and massive “half price” deals are on the unhealthy food. And this ties back to what Ben was saying about the corporations that sit behind these foods, that buy they marketing and shelf space in stores, and give the supermarkets subsidies so they can sell stuff at promo prices. And the lack of these types of corporations sitting behind the fresh whole foods to do the same. But how do we fix that? Who is going to pay for that to happen? Certainly doubt the supermarket is going to put itself out of pocket to sell cheaper fruit and veg.
    But, just so that I am not just being negative, on the positive, we have started an initiative called “fresh food kids” which involves funding local sports clubs and activities so that parents can send their kids to play sports and be active without going massively out of pocket. And we run Fresh Food tours of the supermarket, where we bring in school groups (primary school age and lower) and talk to them about fresh fruit and veg, teach them a little about different fruits and vegetables and about why they are so good for you. It’s not at all comprehensive, but it hopefully is enough to spark a conversation that teachers can then take back to their schools and continue.
    Again, if you want to be cynical you can see the marketing side of this and getting kids into your store so they can then nag their parents to go back there rather than to the competition, but, at least there’s a little good coming out of it?

    Okay. I’ll stop there, because I feel like I’ve said a lot without answering the question AT ALL. But in conclusion, I think trying to outright ban advertising is an uphill battle you may never win and money, time and resources are better spent on education and teaching kids good habits from a young age so they can make better informed decisions for themselves as adults.

    • Bebbrell

      The fact that you can observe and share that much and “Not answer the question at all” proves how complex it is!

      Ahhhh… Woolworths… I wondered where you worked based on your comment from the last podcast… scary about the soda sales! Anyhow… even programming ‘aimed at adults’ for weekend evening entertainment is in fact consumed by families… so perhaps it’s up to the parents to discuss whilst these programs and adverts are on? But then… who is there to teach and inform the parents? It’s not just an issue of education for kids.

      • Dimi

        It’s an endless puzzle to try and sort out really. The problem I guess is that we got here in the first place?
        I think I focus on kids so much because I do believe it’s the easiest way to change an entire cultures mindset. It’s not the fastest way, but informed kids become informed adults, and *most kids, at least in our westernised countries, go to school, at least primary school, so get them while their young and also more willing to learn than stubborn and busy adults.
        Pester Power is a marketing term I learned a while ago and working in retail, I can tell you boy is it a real thing! That’s why so many ads are targeted at younger audiences despite it being the parents with the money and power to buy stuff. ALSO working in a supermarket I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a child asking their parents if they can get some fresh fruit and have the parents say “no, have this candy bar instead” in fact rarely do they say no at all, even ones that look like they are on tight budgets and were not planning on buying that fruit at first.

    • alm477

      So in regard to advertising campaigns for fresh fruit, there’s a weird thing that is starting to happen in the US and I wonder if it is happening anywhere else: branded fruit breeds. I don’t mean companies that sell fruit (usually one of a handful breeds because monoculture) with cutesy branding (Cuties clementines or Chiquita bananas comes to mind). I mean, a company specially breeds a type of apple (then maybe copyrights it? Ish? Legally ties it to their company, anyway), advertises it’s release in stores like any other product (coming to a grocery store near you, X apples! Specially created by science and nature to be the most delicious apples ever!), and then they sell them at a much higher price than “regular” apples. I saw some news/info segment on this happening a few months ago and then actually recognized a specialty apple breed (their ads were used as an example in the news segment) in my grocery store. I didn’t buy any, but their branding was sufficiently memorable.

      Is this a thing in other places? I don’t think it’s common here (yet), but it’s…a thing that is happening.

      Actually, I found the article on it: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/11/10/358530280/want-to-grow-these-apples-youll-have-to-join-the-club

      • Dimi

        This is definitely a thing! Also happening with apples here in Australia, we have a variety here and in New Zealand called Jazz apples that are my favourite! But are exactly what you described, they are a bit more expensive (not by much) than “regular” apples but they are delicious. They also run a very short season, and a couple of years ago they started a ton of marketing around them and now they’re a “brand” as much as a variety. Working in a supermarket I have noticed it starting to happen with a few other things too. It’s winter here now and this year they “launched” a new variety of seedless Mandarins complete with marketing and ads and posters at bus stops etc.
        Is this a good thing? I think so, in that it pushes some fresh food advertising I to the world. But, it does increase the cost of these fruits as they suddenly have to support a marketing budget and that in turn makes it harder to get people to buy them.

      • Dimi

        He! I just read your article and Jazz Apples are on the list at the bottom! As are Kanzi and Envy, which we also have recently gotten in Australia.

  9. Annie1962

    i’m not gonna slag off Mike because he’s right. Parents are ‘stupid’ or too apathetically ignorant to bother ensuring their families eat well.
    How many work and just can’t be arsed to cook (see what I did there?) and would rather get take away or delivery food instead of taking the time to do a healthier meal. It’s getting easier as the years go by to have someone brining junk food to your door (yes we have delivery KFC etc here down undah)

    I saw a documentary by your friend Jamie Oliver, and I was completely appalled to see parents shoving junk food through the bars of a school fence just to get say, a subway or box of nuggets to their kids. That same effort could have been made to just shove a sandwich through the wall with healthier ingredients – say for example a cheese and salad roll. Cheaper and healthier. Or better still the parents could have stayed home and let the Jamie’s school lunches food feed them – would have been a much better and tastier option.
    The same series showed that kids couldn’t even identify the names of fruit and vegetables. I’m shocked. Here in Oz I think it’s a little different and a friend of mine works at a school canteen and she says certain high sugar foods are being banned.
    Personally I am positive the solution lies in education – people assume healthy eating is more expensive than fast food. Wrong. Give me that fifty smackers you spent on KFC and I’ll go straight to the shops and buy a whole plethora of healthy veges with chicken etc
    Companies pay big bucks to sell their junk food and that will never change. The govt should ban junk food advertising at the times when the sprogs are likely to be vegetating in front of the telly. Parents should regulate what the kids watch and moreso what they do on the computer.
    Schools should have a curriculum which includes ‘name that vegetable’ so that kids can have a basic education on what it is to eat well. My teen son learns about healthy cooking and eating at his high school

    Parents need to learn about healthy eating = make classes available in community groups so that parents can learn for free – with a recipe thrown in
    Anyway – too many people give Macca’s and KFC etc too much of their money. The least they can do is give back to the community.
    How ironic that we have houses here called ‘Ronald McDonald house’ which house cancer stricken kids and their families. I’ve seen free Macca’s being given to sick kids in hospital for free – all to keep those kids addicted to junk food.
    That should be banned.
    So the key is Education which leads to moderation. The big junk food corp should at least contribute to this
    After all junk should be ‘sometimes food’

    • Dimi

      I was, as a fellow Australian, going to bring up the whole McDonald’s at the Children’s hospital thing. I have always found it so strange, but indeed, it has been there my whole life. And when they built the new hospital I thought they might take the Macca’s out, but they didn’t, and the government instead insisted it had no place to step in and ban fast food retailers from Children’s Hospitals or any hospitals. But it’s no coincidence that there is a McDonald’s in the Children’s hospital but not the other “regular” hospitals.
      Maybe I’m cynical, but they whole Ronald McDonald house thing sits weirdly with me.
      On the one hand, it’s a great initiative, helping out rural families in their toughest times.
      For those that don’t know, it’s a charity that offers facilities near the Children’s hospitals, so that if Children who live outside the major cities need to stay in hospital their families can stay nearby, rather than travel several hours a day to see them. In Australia they also offer education programs so that kids that have prolonged stays in hospital don’t fall too far behind.
      But on the other, more cynical hand, I wonder how much of what they do is based in altruism and how much is about marketing and infiltrating children’s spaces and how much do they use the fact that they run this charity as leverage to be able to trade in Children’s hospitals and market to kids.

      • Annie1962

        Nope you’re not cynical. I have never felt right knowing that Macca’s is fed and promoted in a kids’ hospital.

    • alm477

      Ok…I’m not saying education isn’t important and isn’t needed and wouldn’t be a good idea, because it IS important, needed and is a great idea. However, I do want to put out there that it is a LOT more complicated than people think it is and is not a cure-all. With apologies, the following will be US-centric since that is the structure I am familiar with.

      Nutrition education for kids is important, but children do not buy or generally make the food at home. So if you leave out parents/guardians in the education you are doomed to fail. Bringing parents in for education can have it’s own problems–especially low-income, high risk families, who are most in need of education. When do you have the classes? Parents usually work, but low-income parents often work jobs with odd and unstable hours and inflexible scheduling (they can’t take off work without putting their job at risk), so if you want to reach more of these populations you will probably have to have multiple classes at multiple days/times, which makes it more expensive. Transportation is also a worry–a family with a tight fuel/public transportation budget may not be able to justify such a trip. That is also assuming that there even IS public transportation that goes to a community center or school (you’d think there would be, but in the US it is NO guarantee). Who is teaching these classes? A trained nutritionist or chef is very knowledgeable, but expensive (people deserve to be paid what they are worth!), and relying on high-skill volunteers can be inconsistent. As can relying on volunteers given a basic/low level of training (and who is providing the training? How much are they being paid?). This person may have to be a traveling educator too (Paying for travel? Lodging? Food?), as many small towns/rural communities are having enough problems getting enough teachers or doctors to settle there, much less a nutrition educator. You also have to be cognizant of the foods used in the education–if you show/push foods that families cannot afford, access, or have equipment to prepare you are unlikely to change their actual behavior.

      Then you run into the problem of facilities for classes. Many towns don’t have a community center and if they do there is no guarantee that said community center has kitchen facilities. Using schools also has problems because, and here is a nasty thing that most US citizens are unaware of, many schools in the US don’t actually HAVE cooking equipment. As in there are no cooking surfaces/ovens. Many only have equipment to re-warm food. Some schools have nothing at all, and the food has to come pre-packaged or is brought in from another school in the district that DOES have the ability to cook/warm.

      Also, how many education sessions will be offered? Is one sufficient to provide necessary information to lead to behavioral change? Or do you need more? Over how many days/months/years? Will you need refresher programs? The more sessions you have, the more effective (and more expensive) it is likely to be, but only if you can get people to attend. The higher-risk a family is, the fewer sessions you can expect them to attend (client retention is one of the banes of social service programs). You also have to convince people that this education is worth attending–which is difficult for a lot of reasons, but especially in people whose mindset is focused on WHETHER their child will get to eat rather than WHAT their child is eating. To paraphrase a low-income mother from an interview years ago “A $2 bag of apples will provide a day or two of snacks [that will only take the edge off hunger] for my kids, but $2 worth of instant ramen is a filling dinner for the whole family [and one that takes minimal skill/time/equipment to prepare].”

      And then we come to the cost of such programs generally–because as Mike mentions, it usually does come down to money eventually. Annie1962, you have an absolutely BRILLIANT idea in making fastfood/processed food companies fund this sort of thing–not only could you have money for this program but it might also lead to increased prices for that food making this food less appealing. A two pronged attack, I love it. Convincing government to make such legislation however (especially in the US where industry lobbies/pays campaign contributions to politicians) can be done, but is REALLY hard. Worth doing, but HARD. Getting the regular tax-paying public to support this type of legislation also becomes difficult when you are fighting the mindset of “Why should MY tax money pay to alleviate YOUR [stupid] bad parenting? If MY kids aren’t suffering, why should I care about yours?” (please excuse me as I go rage-scream into a pillow–that attitude drives me bonkers)

      You might also be battling taste issues in some groups. Canned vegetables/fruits are cheap and shelf stable in comparison to fresh (or even frozen), but people raised on them get used to that texture/taste and sometimes have trouble liking that of fresh fruits/veggies, even when they can afford them.

      • Bebbrell

        It’s impossibly complex. I believe education (for all ages) IS the key… but only when you unlock the logistics of delivering it. That part is almost impossible.

        Perhaps there is opportunity to provide short, engaging entertainment pieces of content for free online that inspire and educate. These could be delivered on the platforms that users already use, can be ‘consumed’ at a time fo day they want etc. No doubt there are still costs (so who funds this?)… and then how do you encourage mass population to engage with it and benefit from the value. Nobody likes to be preached to… but accidental learning can be fun.

        What you won’t change is the cost of the raw ingredients to put this learning into practice. Entire nations/governments are subsidising the production of the wrong things to keep entire businesses afloat. On one hand it isn’t fair to remove their livelihoods… but we do need to find ways of subsidising a diverse array of fruit/veg/whole grains… not just corn!

      • alm477

        Not almost impossible–merely extremely difficult 🙂 Otherwise we wouldn’t have any intervention programs at all. Nor does it mean that difficult things aren’t worth doing. However, unless you have it shoved in your face via a public policy/intervention science class or brutal experience via activism people tend to be extremely ignorant, flip, or even thoughtless about intervention programs (including, perhaps ESPECIALLY people in politics) and what it takes to make them work. As a result huge amounts of money go into programs that do not work or even make a problem worse (or make new problems!).

        When it comes to interventions (no matter what kind) you always need to consider: What is the problem you are intervening on? Is it actually a problem? What things lead to/into this problem or otherwise effect it? How difficult are those things/causes to intervene with? Which pathway(s) to this problem are easiest/most effective to disrupt? How will you disrupt them? Will this require legislation? A change in industry? How will it be paid for, especially long term? If money is tight, will you target the people most in need? Or try to reach the largest number of people? Who will provide your program (what agency/government)? Who will actually carry it out (teachers? doctors? parent? dedicated instructors? etc)? Who is creating the curriculum of a program, and what is guiding their decisions? What is/are the actual goals of the intervention? What population are you targeting (children, families, low-income people, everyone, or only people who show problems already)? What barriers are there to reaching your population? How can you remove those barriers? What assumptions are you making about this problem and the population you are working with? How do you assess that this program is working? What are your criteria of success or failure? If a program works in the testing phase will it scale up effectively (and how will you know that)? Will it work on all populations equally? Are their cultural barriers/insensitivities for some or all parts of your population? Etc.

        Plus being ready to fight the usual battles if you have a program/intervention that is effective, but not ideologically pleasing.

        For example, your idea of engaging entertainment pieces of content online (I see what you did there 😉 ) is not bad as a part of a larger program. However, it does make the assumption that everyone has access to the internet–not true in the US (especially rural areas)–especially in their free time (which assumes they HAVE free/leisure time, that they have access to internet in said free time, and that when they have free time on the internet they spend it on video sites). And as you noted, how do you get people to find and actually click on said video/content and watch it? And will that change their behavior? Plus addressing other non-education based barriers? An intervention will trip over the barriers it does not acknowledge.

        I’m not trying to be a Negative Nancy–none of this is impossible. It’s just very, very hard and takes a lot of thought and sometimes some hard decisions.

    • Bebbrell

      So true – the name that vegetable game with kids is quite scary. We once witnessed a great initiative with a supermarket in the UK that invited classrooms of kids into their fruit and veg section for hour-long sessions once a week. They were allowed to roam free… look at, touch and feel everything and choose to bring one item that intrigued them back. We cut into them and allowed them to taste the fruit/veg. Kids were bringing back mango, pineapple, kiwi etc. because they’d never seen them. Until they tasted it… then they recognised the flavour!

  10. alm477

    Banning marketing around unhealthy foods in interesting–I think they do try to do a little of it in the US, but not nearly as much as in the UK. But for the US it gets complicated because of lobbyists who can make “campaign contributions” to politicians to sway them away from restrictions or even to promote their business interests. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) being one of the more infamous–taxes/tariffs (can’t remember which) make sugar more expensive in comparison to HFCS, so when companies need a sweetener they are more likely to go HFCS than regular sugar.

    Smoking/tobacco advertising is an interesting example, but perhaps not the best one. Tobacco advertisements were banned around kids shows/products/schools/etc here (including using cartoon mascots) sometime in the 1990s, I think. I don’t remember seeing many advertisements after very early elementary school. However, that was not the only front that they worked on. There was and is anti-smoking education as a part of general (and infamously ineffective) anti-drug and alcohol programs. Aside from scary labeling on packaging and strict ID laws for buying tobacco products, state and local governments made it as hard as possible to smoke–massive taxes on tobacco products but also restricting where you were allowed to smoke. Before the year 2000 it was made illegal (at least in my state, but I also don’t notice differences in other states I’ve visited) to smoke in public buildings, public transport, public property (including parks), schools, hospitals, restaurants, and bars. Moreover, almost every other business banned smoking on their premises–rates of smoking have gone down so much that even many hotels have stopped having smoking rooms (or charge more for them). Those bans have made it incredibly difficult to smoke anywhere, and those bans/restrictions are still increasing. I work on a sprawling university campus and you are only allowed to smoke in your car (not that people aren’t still violating this at the moment) and the university charges (or was planning to charge) smokers an extra $75 a month on their health insurance (but offers free smoking cessation programs to any employee who wants it). So it wasn’t just the restrictions on advertising that made the difference (though it probably helped)–indeed, probably the reason I see hardly any tobacco ads is because I live in a relatively middle class/upper middle class (and heavily white) area. Tobacco companies spend more money to advertise in poor and minority neighborhoods than in whiter and/or wealthier areas. Actually, the prevalence of smoking in other countries often comes as a very rude shock to traveling US citizens.

    Also, smoking in particular is an easier sell for bans than unhealthy food as it is impossible for smoking to not effect the people around you. You can’t really get second hand sugar (unless you are eating something with powdered sugar and it is windy. Or if Jamie comes by and blows the powdered sugar at you when you are trying to cook).

    I hadn’t heard about Ireland’s new alcohol legislation. That’s interesting, because Pennsylvania (the state I live in) is actually loosening some of it’s alcohol restrictions, after decades of being one of the strictest states in the country. Like, it’s only in the past 5 years now that it is legal to sell beer and wine in (some, specially licensed) grocery stores–however, the alcohol must be sectioned away from the rest of the store, has to have it’s own separate cashiers (who need state training anyway), and is held to all the same strict laws as any other alcohol provider.

    …I had more to say than I’d intended, very little of it about food :/

    • Bebbrell

      Some really interesting points… intrigued to hear more about the state laws on alcohol!

      Although one thing that made me think… second hand sugar. I think you can. When the culture is to bring cake or doughnuts into the office/school as a celebration (birthdays or similar) then it’s ‘rude’ not to enjoy and thank the person for them. When the only option is High sugar/fat/salt at places of entertainment (sports matches, cinemas etc) then you do what everybody around you is doing otherwise you’re made to feel like you’re missing out or not joining in. Turn up to a sports event with a tupperware of fruit or salad and you’re the weirdo! Secondary sugar might be more of a thing that we think!

      • alm477

        Actually a good point about the second hand sugar–one I will admit to being guilty of. Most of my cooking competence is based in sweets and celebrating and/or showing affection via calories is definitely A Thing.

        In my experience, turn up at a sports event with a Tupperware of fruit or salad and you will have to sneak it in because they don’t allow outside food. :/

        Any particular questions about state laws? Other than relating complaints from people from out of state, I can really only answer the ones for PA–I used to have a seller/server certification (as in, I was allowed to judge if a customer was allowed to buy alcohol, make a decision as to whether I was willing to vend them alcohol, and actually sell it to them). In PA there is also a difference between state law and House Rules (the specifics as to whether/when a restaurant/store will sell alcohol). House Rules must of course adhere to state law at minimum, but they are also allowed to be STRICTER than state law. For example, state law only demands that I card someone (once) if I think they might be underage. However, the house rules for the events I worked demanded that I card every single person for every single alcohol transaction and reduced the types of IDs I was allowed to accept as proof of age (state issued photo ID/drivers license, active US military ID, or a passport were the only ones I could take).

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