Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011
In my April 28th blog, Colorless Food—It’s Enough To Make You Blanch, I discussed the meddling members of the government (Republican and Democrat) who can’t resist sticking their big fat noses into areas they know nothing about. It’s insanity how they just can’t resist tinkering with our foods when they should be coming up with a balanced budget. These Dopes de Cuisine now have their sights set on none other than Tony the Tiger, the M&M Boys, the Girl Scouts of America, and the corner lot baseball team.
The government’s Food Gestapo is now staging an all out war on marketing to kids. Tony the Tiger, some NASCAR drivers and cookie-selling Girl Scouts may soon be out of jobs unless food manufacturers begin to reinvent their products to satisfy this administration’s food police. The word is out say several federal regulatory agencies; either retool your recipes to contain lower levels of sugar, sodium and fats, or no more advertising and marketing to children or teenagers.
It’s not just the usual suspected foods that are being targeted, such as Thin Mint cookies sold by scouts or M&Ms and Snickers, which sponsor cars in the Sprint Cup, but pretty much everything on the menu.
Although the intent of the guidelines is to combat childhood obesity—a laudable goal—foods that are low in calories and fat and that some consider healthy foods are also targets, including hot breakfast cereals such as oatmeal, pretzels, popcorn, nuts, yogurt, wheat bread, bagels, diet drinks, fruit juice, tea, bottled water and even milk.
Both Consumers and food industries’ executives are in an uproar over the joint proposal written by the Federal Trade Commission, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The most disturbing aspect of this interagency working group is that after it imposes multibillions of dollars in restrictions and “suggested” changes on our foods, there is no evidence there will be any positive impact on the scourge of childhood obesity. The more you tell children they can’t have something, the more they want it. It’s kind of like this… what happens when I tell you not to think of the color red. What is the first color you think of?
The Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children, Preliminary Proposed Nutrition Principles to Guide Industry Self-Regulation Efforts says it is voluntary, but industry officials say the intent is clear: Do it, or else.
Unemployment isn’t high enough? It’s not just the food industry that will be impacted. Television shows that depend on the advertising revenue will be affected, critics of the proposal say—at a cost of $5.8 trillion in marketing expenditures that support up to 20 million American jobs.
Here again the “rule” of unintended consequences is rearing its ugly head. This is the culinary corollary to “Are we spending too much or taxing too little?” — “Are we eating too much or exercising too little?” Mom was right, “Everything in moderation.”
If the food is not reformulated, no more ads or promotions on TV or radio, in print, on websites, or other digital advertising such as e-mail and text messaging, packaging, and point-of-purchase displays and other in-store marketing tools; product placement in movies, videos, video games, contests, sweepstakes, character licensing and toy branding; sponsorship of events including sport teams and individual athletes; and, philanthropic activity tied to branding opportunities will be affected. That also includes softball teams that are sponsored by food companies and school reading programs sponsored by restaurants.
The sad part is many of the foods targeted in the proposal are the same foods approved by the federal government for the WIC nutrition program for women, infants and children.
Chocolate is an indulgent treat. It has a certain amount of fat and sugar which gives chocolate its distinctive flavor and texture. While at Choclatique we use natural ingredients, if we were to remove the pure cane sugar grown in Hawaii and the cocoa butter processed in California, you might as well suck on a bitter chocolate stone.
These are decisions that parents should be making for their own kids. These should not be government decisions. Now I ask you, does this make any sense at all?