The Politics of Food

Nutrition myths may not be a symptom of poor science, but rather a symptom of food politics.

A significant number of research studies are funded by large corporations. Nutrition research may be highly influenced by companies with a strong interest in the outcomes of the studies. 

Many national guidelines are actually reflections of the stranglehold that lobbying dollars have on the integrity of our political system, and more importantly, our food system.

The food industry has successfully limited nutrition debate to "there are no bad foods, eat in moderation" and "energy in, energy out".

This oversimplifies the nutrition debate and overlooks other problems in our food system such as the influence of synthetic man-made chemicals present in our food and its packaging, as well as marketing activities geared towards children.

It is well known that eating habits and behaviors are learned very young in age, likely before the ages of 5-6. This means that advertising targeting young children especially can play a role in decision-making later in life, outside of the conscious choice of the child.

The dairy industry also has reframed the entire debate about bone health as an issue of milk consumption. In a revealing interview on Food Politics, dietitian Andy Bellatti looks beyond marketing campaigns such as the "Got Milk?" series, and asks tough, revealing questions such as "How did the milk indus­try con­vince mil­lions of Amer­i­cans that it has exclu­sive rights to bone health?"

At the end of the interview, Andy Bellatti notes some of his favorite sources of information such as Marion Nestle, author of the book Food Politics and offers some practical nutrition tips that someone reading this could apply today.

As corporations can now finance political campaigns without limitation, the next election cycle should surely be interesting to follow, particularly around issues of the Farm Bill, School Lunch Programs, and Agricultural subsidies.

You do not need a huge pool of money to make changes in food politics. Politicians are eager to maintain votes, and consumer opinion can shift their stances on important issus. A handwritten letter shows time and dedication and will surely be read, while a pre-written, emailed statement is likely to be tallied and only taken seriously if received in massive quantities.

If you are alive, you eat, and your food choices are tightly tied in with the politics of some of the largest corporations in the world. 

More and more people are asking where does our food come from? and are concerned with issues such as genetically engineered produce, or the approval of controversial pesticides such as methyl iodide on strawberries in California.

Do not let food politics frame the nutrition debate. You can frame it by voting with every bite and hitting companies in their wallets.