Old Person of Troy

Better-for-You Bunk: False Advertising?

In case you haven’t noticed, many entrepreneurs are ready to sell us bunk to enhance our health. Sometimes it comes in the form of alternative medicine, as Tim Caulfield so aptly describes. Very often, the better-for-you bunk comes in the form of ultra-processed foods with claims like GMO-free and all-natural – to help people rationalize mindless consumption. It doesn’t leave us healthier. But it does make the cash register ring.

False Advertising?

Kind LLC is in the business of selling healthy snacks. They’ve tangled with FDA over the years because of health enhancement claims that FDA didn’t like, but ultimately permitted. Are nuts and dried fruits stuck together with sugar going to make us healthier?

Maybe not, but the concept did bring Kind LLC a deal with Mars Foods worth five billion dollars.

Now Kind finds itself as the target of a class-action lawsuit for false advertising. Plaintiffs say the company is falsely labeling its products as GMO-free and all-natural. But in fact, they say, these products contain a mixture of chemically synthesized and processed ingredients. Also, the plaintiffs say they’ve detected GMOs in some of the products from Kind.

Dietitian Linn Steward sums up the litigation nicely:

“It’s a lot of expensive gobbledygook that in the end is just proving KIND bars are ultra-processed. Why can’t folks figure that out for themselves? It’s clear if you read the ingredient list on the label.”

Exploiting People Seeking Health

Are these health claims subtle and harmless? Or do these claims add up to exploitation? Magical answers to our ills have always been more appealing than the reality of our frail existence. Medicine shows exploit it. Faith healers dramatize it. Food marketers monetize it.

In a “Letter to Alternative Medicine,” Professor Timothy Caulfield describes the problem well:

“In reality, it feels like you are often simply exploiting people, Alternative Medicine. You are leveraging significant, systemic health-care issues in order to sell unproven (and often potentially harmful) stuff to people who may be desperate for answers or comfort. Marketing misinformation is not a form of empowerment.”

Food Is Not Medicine

Good food is essential for health. Overconsumption of food – whether that food fits a popular definition of healthy or not – harms health. Health claims for food products are great marketing tools. Better-for-you food bunk does not seem to be making us healthier. But it does ring the cash register.

Click here for more on the litigation with Kind. For a taste of better-for-you bunk in snack food trends, click here. For perspective from one person’s journey through pop diet trends, click here.

Old Person of Troy, illustration from Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense / Wikimedia Commons

There was an Old Person of Troy,
Whose drink was warm brandy and soy;
Which he took with a spoon,
By the light of the moon,
In sight of the city of Troy.

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March 26, 2021

One Response to “Better-for-You Bunk: False Advertising?”

  1. March 26, 2021 at 6:51 am, Mary-Jo said:

    Methuselah’s Diet

    By Anonymous

    Methuselah ate what he found on his plate,
    And never, as people do now,
    Did he note the amount of the calorie count.
    He ate it because it was chow.
    He wasn’t disturbed as at dinner he sat,
    Devouring a roast or a pie,
    To think it was lacking in granular fat
    Or a couple of vitamins shy.

    He cheerfully chewed each species of food,
    Unmindful of troubles or fears
    Lest his health might be hurt by some fancy dessert,
    And he lived over 900 years.