The Enemy

Keeping an Enemies List in Nutrition

If you spend any time perusing headlines in nutrition, it’s hard not to notice a widespread inclination to keep an enemies list in nutrition. The enemy can be a food — maybe red meat. It can be gluten, it can be geneticaly modified food ingredients, it can be processed foods, it can be fat, it can be sugar. It can be McDonald’s, it can be Coke, it can be Pepsi. It can be the food industry.

It can be a huge distraction and a cause for some pretty bad decision making.

Right now, it’s hard to miss the fact that sugar sweetened beverages are entrenched on the enemies list and Coca-Cola has been getting more than its share of attention lately. The attention was sparked by a New York Times story about Coca-Cola funding researchers who believe that physical activity is an important component of energy balance.

Does this mean that anyone who advocates for the importance of physical activity is “a spin doctor” for Coca-Cola? Writing in the Huffington Post, Laurie David, producer of the movie Fed Up, seems to think so. She took one look at Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s campaign to promote walking and concluded that he must be doing it for Coke. Seriously.

Now the word has come this week that Coca-Cola has ended its sponsorship of programs by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. which has amounted to $2.6 million over the past eight years. And at the Academy’s annual Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE), Coca-Cola will not be an exhibitor.

Is an enemies list helping people make better decisions about nutrition and health? Are we better off engaging or shunning the food industry? Will food and beverage companies make better decisions without talking to nutrition experts?

Michael Corleone might have had the right idea: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

Click here to read more about Coca-Cola ending its sponsorship of the Academy’s programs. Click here for more perspective from Hank Cardello.

The Enemy, photograph © Ric Jackson / flickr

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October 4, 2015

2 Responses to “Keeping an Enemies List in Nutrition”

  1. October 05, 2015 at 7:46 am, Susan Burke March said:

    I think this column Hank Cardello is is informative, but strongly disagree with this statement: “Yet many activists cling to the notion that these companies are inherently evil, that their products are either “good” or “bad,” and that “bad” foods must therefore be outlawed or taxed to protect consumers. A recent example: The Center for Science in the Public Interest is now calling for a ban on candy displays near checkout aisles, despite the fact that the average American consumes only 2% of his or her calories from candy. Taken to extremes, some activists would tax or ban anything that is irresistible but has little redeeming nutritional value. Could baguettes and ice cream be next?” CSPI has done tremendous work in identifying corporate behaviors that contribute to obesity and instead of supporting the initiative to make shopping a more healthful experience, he’s criticizing it. There’s been much research that shows that changing the layout of the supermarket to promote better-for-you foods and diminish the convenience of junk foods results in consumers buying better. See Slim by Design by Brian Wansink, for example. Non-food stores like Staples have tons of candy at the checkout aisle now- they didn’t used to. Why? Because they know that impulse buying pays off in these huge margin items.

  2. October 05, 2015 at 1:54 pm, Ted said:

    As usual, Susan, you’re making some very good points. Thanks!