Because my recent post about McDonald’s “nutrition workshops” drew a lot of ire and eyeballs, I figured there’d be interest in the latest jaw-dropping news from the Land of Ronald:
For starters, London’s Guardian newspaper reported last week that the British Department of Health is creating food-policy advisory groups that include reps from McDonald’s, PepsiCo, and other fast-food and processed-food companies. (The department’s alcohol-policy advisory group, meanwhile, is chaired by a liquor lobbyist, according to the paper.) As one food activist said in the story: “This is the equivalent of putting the tobacco industry in charge of smoke-free spaces.” You think?
Next comes “McWrong,” school-food activist Susan Rubin’s indictment of McTeacher’s Nights. And yes, that is exactly as bad as it sounds. McDonald’s gives schools the “opportunity” to put teachers behind the counter for an evening, with a percentage of sales benefiting the school. (And the rest of the money? Plus all that priceless PR and indoctrination? Well, that benefits McDonald’s, of course.) Rubin suggests combating this practice with a school screening of “Super Size Me,” Morgan Spurlock’s stomach-churning documentary about eating McDonald’s food for a month straight.
Finally, here are two pieces from Michele Simon, a public-health lawyer and author of the book “Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back.” In this blog post, Simon details the history behind San Francisco’s crackdown on Happy Meal toys. It’s an interesting exploration of what it takes to battle the McDonald’s machine. And in this piece, a Q&A over at The Ethicurean, Simon talks about the broken food system that allows companies like McDonald’s to have this much power in the first place.
Two Simon excerpts:
On government involvement in food:
“There’s some very disturbing discourse now about how everything government does is bad. And, that anything government might do to ‘control’ your behavior is bad, so if government makes food policy changes, those must be bad, too. … It completely ignores the reality that government is already involved with everything you eat. Every single meal, every bite you take is already shaped by policy; it’s just that the policy is in corporate interests, instead of the public interest.”
On why the fight matters:
“We need to make it easier to access good food, and we need to make it socially acceptable, so people who talk about these issues and who try to eat ‘healthy’ food aren’t treated like outcasts.”
Now, speaking of government, today is make-or-break time for the Food Safety Modernization Act (and its critical Tester-Hagan amendment, which would protect small farmers and food producers by creating size-appropriate requirements). Also at a vital juncture this week: the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This reauthorization bill would address childhood nutrition, hunger and school food, yet conflicts remain. It’s not too late to get on the phone and add your voice.