Skip to content

Food and Corporate

2014 June 30

Hey everyone! Hope you all had a fantastic weekend. We had some interesting and relatable readings for today (at least to me). First I want to talk about the Guilabert and Wood one regarding organic foods. They found a correlation between peoples beliefs about the word “organic” and if they were more likely to buy organic labeled food. Many people linked the word “organic” with meaning the food was healthier and had more health benefits than normal food. Some connected it with living longer and getting sick less often. The researchers propose that USDA might need to update how they label things since the USDA organic label can mean so much.

To me, organic can be a little confusing. I’ve heard things from trusting the USDA standard is ok to trust absolutely nothing unless you grow it yourself or know the person that grows it. I see truths in both of these things. Just because one farm is “organic” doesn’t mean the farm next door is also organic and when it rains and pesticides and unnatural things wash from one farm to the other even the organic farm isn’t so organic anymore. How can we ever know if that it the case though? I think it is good to have a USDA standard but I don’t whole-heartedly believe in that meaning that it is truly organic. On the extreme of growing your own food or knowing your farmer- I think this would be ideal. In a place like Harrisonburg where you can go to the farmers market basically year round and get to know your farmers I think we should! Farmers markets are getting more popular and I think they are great. They might not all be organic farms but you can normally ask the people or they have information about their farms at the market. I am scouting some farmers markets here in NYC and hope to find some good ones and see what they have going on. Organic isn’t the end all be all to me but I do think it is important to know exactly what you are putting into your body and to be able to trust and understand what these labels mean. What do you all think about the word “organic”? Do you prefer to buy organic foods? When I’m buying things with labels I normally look at the ingredients and if there is a bunch of sketchy stuff I’d rather not. I love seeing real ingredients spelled out so I know what is in the product. I stumbled upon this video about GMOs and Prop 37 in California. Prop 37 states that companies need to put everything on labels including when food have GMOs (genetically modified organisms). I am all about that because I find it sneaky and misleading not to tell us if there are GMOs in our food. I like the video too because it is about graffiti which I just think is cool. Check it out!

The cereal article from Thomson really caught my attention because I felt it was relatable. I can vividly remember watching Saturday morning cartoon with my brother and seeing a commercial for Reeses puffs, Cinnamon toast crunch, French toast crunch (remember that one?!), Trix etc. We loved junk cereal and my Mom HATED it. She would say we had to mix a healthy cereal with the junk so we would be picking out and choking down bran flakes so we could finally enjoy the junk mixed in. She has an important point that it is not fair to market, especially so intensely like with these games, to young children because they can’t understand that the commercials are supposed to be persuasive and make you want the cereal.

Trix are for kids

Example from my childhood: This isn’t Food related but my Mom and I still get a good laugh out of it today so I thought I’d share. I have really curly hair and that was never the hair to have when I was growing up so I wanted straight hair like all the other girls. I was too young to have any heat tools or anything so I always wondered how I could get my hair straight. I would always see commercials for Loreal kids shampoo (remember it came in the bottle that looked like a fish and smelt like candy?) In the commercials these kids would wash their hair and then, like magic, it was silky and straight and blowing while they were on the swings or running through a playground. I was SO excited. I asked my Mom if I could get the silky smooth Loreal kids the next time we were at the store and as soon as I got home I showered, brushed my hair for a solid 30 minutes, and went to bed excited to see what it would look like in the morning. To my surprise and disappointment my hair was not silky and straight. It was still curly and frizzy and I didn’t understand why. My Mom enlightened me that saying it would make my hair silky and smooth didn’t mean it would straighten it and just because the people on the commercial had straight hair it didn’t mean my hair would be straight. It was a sad day for a small child with big hair. Since everyone in the commercial had straight hair and the advertisement kept saying things like “silky” and “smooth” I truly believed it would transform my hair.

While I don’t believe marketing to children in right, I can see both sides of the argument. The record label I am interning for has Arianna Grande and Austin Mahone signed to it and has made me see how huge of a market there is for younger people. Any type of social media posts about either of those artist get a crazy amount of interaction within minutes because their fans are so intensely engaged. Also, these younger people have disposable  income or parents who will buy stuff for them. It’s definitely different since we are selling music, none of which is carrying a bad message or is vulgar and these cereal companies are selling something that can be very harmful to kids. Still I wonder- is it the companies job to change their marketing or is it the parents/guardians/teachers/etc. job to educate the children? Even though I can see why people with a product that makes a lot of money off children would market how they are marketing, I don’t think it’s right. The sad part is do we just want these companies to shut down? If their thing is sugary kids cereal and we want that gone then they don’t exist anymore but what about all the people who would lose their jobs? I guess they could revamp their brand like we have seen sometimes with sugary cereals saying “whole grain”. But, they would actually have to change the product a little more so it wasn’t so processed and so sugary. It is a tough debate because why would they spend money to make a huge change and maybe lose customers? In my perfect world we wouldn’t make things that are harmful for children but could we actually get everyone on board with this?

I know I through a lot of questions out so here’s a little summary of things to think about:

–       Your thoughts on organic food/labeling?

–       Do you prefer organic food?

–       What’s your favorite childhood cereal (soley because I’m curious- mine was Cinnamon toast crunch)

–       Was there a time you have been tricked by an advertisement?

–       Should companies not be allowed to market specifically to children?


Looking forward to hearing from you all!

11 Responses leave one →
  1. Maggie Roth permalink
    June 30, 2014

    These articles, like Carolyn mentioned are really relevant to our generation because the food industry has had to start labeling its products because consumers have started to demand to know what is actually in their food. The Guilabert and Wood article perfectly sums up that labeling products isn’t the only answer–if consumers don’t know what the labels mean. I agree with Carolyn that many times, I am confused by what counts as organic or what the difference is between natural/all-natural etc. However, since starting researching for our final paper, I have begun to learn the differences between these things and understand how much the food industry gets away with in regards to ambiguous labeling.

    Prop 37 in California– which Carolyn discusses is a huge deal because its goal was to mandate all manufactures to label all GM ingredients in their products and limit words being used as advertisement if they weren’t applicable (for example saying “All Natural” on a box of cereal when really, the ingredients are genetically modified). Sadly, this bill failed, and it failed because of opposition support from companies such as Nestle and General Mills donating millions.

    What is more interesting about the issue of labeling is that the United States is one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t require full disclosure on food labels. Countries in Europe, South America, and Africa all demand for this–so companies abide by their wishes. What does this say about our food culture then?

    To answer Carolyn’s questions, I do prefer to eat organic food because I want to know where my food is grown and whether or not there are chemicals on it. During the summer my family grows their own vegetables, which is why I love shopping local during the other seasons. We normally shop at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods– and just as a FYI, Whole Foods is the first US grocery store to label all of its GM products by 2018.

    Carolyn’s other questions are a bit tougher. While I would like to say that no, I don’t think companies should market to children because of their influence and children’s lack of knowledge, it is in fact their right in a free market society to do so. I do think however, that many food companies aren’t as regulated because they are popular products among children. For example, Cheerios, is one of the first snacks babies eat, but Cheerios are also full of GM ingredients which have gone unlabeled. It wasn’t until recently that consumers fought against this– this is solely in the United States however. All 11 of the Cheerio brands in Europe are devoid of GM ingredients and are labeled correctly.

    • Charlotte Harnad permalink
      June 30, 2014

      Maggie, I really like your arguments that you make. Referring to Prop 37 and other policies around the world really emphasizes how large of a problem our policies are causing us in the United States. It is simply ridiculous that labels do not further elaborate on where food comes from, which for me acts as a source of reassurance that I feel safe consuming a certain product. Labeling is such an important thing that is often overlooked because people either trust the government or do not and are skeptical of the labels. The increasing interest in healthy lifestyles has also largely contributed to the rising questions concerning food safety and the policies regarding labeling. There are so many different definitions of organic, and I think that if everyone researched organic, they would also be concerned with the USDA and the labeling policies that currently exist in the nation.

    • Carolyn Girondo permalink
      June 30, 2014

      Yes! It’s crazy to think of all the other countries that have always been labeling their food and we still won’t do it. The other questions are tough because I think we all want the best for the people in our country but I feel when it comes to businesses, profit is what maters most to them and everything else falls to the side sadly. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Charlotte Harnad permalink
    June 30, 2014

    Carolyn has a lot of really great points. I personally liked all of the personal connections and examples because it really emphasized her point. This topic is something I really care about. My family has a garden and orchard that we get all of our vegetables and a lot of our fruit from for the summer. Whatever we don’t use we cook and then freeze so we can eat our own food all year round. My dad is also a member of the ‘Slow Food’ movement, so I am really fixated on eating healthy, local, and/or organic food. Reading articles over the years has really made me realize that there is a difference in how food is raised, and learning how to purchase the healthiest food possible became a challenge I accepted. So, to answer Carolyn’s question, I highly preference organic food. However, I am not biased to just a label. I am fully aware that although the label says it is organic, it does not necessarily mean that it is truly organic. I live around a lot of different farms, and so there is a pretty steady supply of local and organic food throughout the summer from farmers that I have personally been introduced to or gotten to know, so I feel fully comfortable eating local food because I know that the procedures they use guarantee healthy produce.

    Labeling has become incredibly tricky. As Guilabert and Wood discuss, farmers and companies have begun to slap the organic label on their food so they are able to have an increase in sales. The public is becoming overwhelmingly more concerned with consuming ‘healthy’ and ‘organic’ food, without really even researching the standards that organic labels are withheld to or where the food comes from. I think that it is difficult to label food in the United States because there are always going to be critiques questioning a farmer’s product. I personally believe that the guidelines need to be stricter concerning organic labels because instead of being money-oriented, famers and small companies can become more produce-oriented so they can create and sell the healthiest product possible to the product. However, as Carolyn argues, there are many factors that are against this, such as runoff from local farms who use pesticides.

    I found the Thomson article to be incredibly interesting. Froot Loops was my favorite sugary cereal, so it really hit home to me because I kept thinking of my childhood. Sadly, I am old enough to say that we didn’t really have the online stuff that they do now. Either that, or my parents just simply did not allow me to play on it. I understand from a marketing point where the sugary cereals are coming from, but I think that it eventually comes to a point where you must consider morals and belief systems. It is very difficult to simply ignore the forever-increasing childhood overweightness, diabetes, and obesity that is spreading around the country like wildfire. It does come to a point where companies must remember that they are advertising for children who do not know any better: their diet would consist of solely candy, pizza, soda, and chips if they had it their way. Companies must remember the moral obligation to mankind to preserve their health and do the right thing.

  3. Frank Saunders III permalink
    June 30, 2014

    Know your Farmer, know your food. “Organic” food has its own aisle and sections in most grocery scores and the health craze of our generation puts a theoretical asterisk on the word. Carolyn talks about trusting your food, and whether organic really means organic. I trust the food I get at my local super market, whether it says it is organic or not. However, I don’t trust all the organic labels, and quite frankly, I don’t trust any label at all. It is unfair to falsely label products.

    I love all the sugar-loaded cereals, and I am a massive fan of corn pops. I don’t even want to know what the ingredients are, because I know it can’t be good for one’s physical well-being. I don’t have a problem with labels hiding what is in their food, but I would have a problem if corn pops became magically ‘organic.’

    Prop 37 is something that is a step in the right direction, but it isn’t ideal, and as said, no one really would want to know what exactly they were eating if it were genetically modified. However, everyone would want to know if it were ‘organic.’ But doesn’t everyone already do that? Would it be any different than the food that is manufactured today?

    • Maggie Roth permalink
      June 30, 2014

      To piggyback on what Trey said about labeling food, America is really far behind other countries in the world because consumers aren’t requiring the food industry to label. Ironically, the big PR disaster that happened to Cheerios regarding their GM use only concluded with General Mills detracting GM ingredients from one of the 11 types of Cheerios. I think if consumers started to act– as in stopped buying food that had genetically modified ingredients in it, then companies would be forced to (at the minimum) label but maybe stop using these products all together?

      I think the real issue right now is that people just don’t know what they are eating but they don’t really know what to do about it either. That’s why organizations like Green America are important because they help advocate for consumers who think they don’t have a voice.

      Since there is no definite answer on whether GMOs are bad, I think at the very least, people should have the right to know if they are eating them–so it becomes the individual consumer’s choice to buy products with GM ingredients in them or not.

    • Brooklyn Steele permalink
      July 3, 2014

      I understand what you’re saying. You sound kind of like me. You eat what you like and don’t necessarily look at the ingredients and such. An I agree most foods I wouldn’t even want to know how they made them. But I think organic food should 100% be labeled and stated why it is organic and every ingredient. Most people are buying organic because they eat extremely healthy. Me personally, I’m too poor to shop organic, but I’m also curious how much of a difference it is compared to none organic and compare the price.

  4. Lindsay Kagalis permalink
    July 1, 2014

    Carolyn, I loved this post! For one, my paper this “semester” is based around organic food products and the market that has flourished due to the people’s concern over what is being put into their bodies. I think it’s a really interesting topic, especially because as I’ve been researching, I have learned that organic food labeling solely voluntary because then it does not go against stipulations that are held by WTO (the World Trade Organization). Me personally, I do prefer to buy organic food products, but as you even mentioned, it is not enough for me to simply see an organic label to think that it is truly organic. I have read into the standards that labeling companies use to label food organic, and I was almost shocked to learn that the standards sometimes are not that strict to label a product organic. I also think my food choices stem from the issues that I have with mass production of food, which leads me to try to shop only at the farmers market or the Friendly City Co-Op here in Harrisonburg. I think it is absolutely great to not only know WHERE you are getting but also to know that the money you are paying for your food is actually going back to the community that you live in. So for me, even though I eat organically and locally, it is for multiple reasons.

    As for the cereal essay, I don’t believe I can really relate because I have never been a fan of cereal. Which I think is pretty interesting, because I can vividly remember sneaking out in the middle of the night when I was three or four just to pour a bowl of Cheerios and watch TV for whatever reason. But as for whether marketers should market to children specifically or not, even though I would want to say that they shouldn’t, they really have every right to. Even if you think back to the holiday season for other advertisements, more and more we see marketers targeting children specifically because they know how much buying power they have over their parents. It’s definitely a double-edged sword because we want children to have the best things possible, especially food, but parents also want to keep children happy and that’s when the advertisers take advantage of selling products like candy and sugary cereals to children.

  5. Alina Clark permalink
    July 3, 2014

    I thought these readings were really interesting and also extremely relevant to a lot of the conversations that go on presently about food. The topic for my paper is about food corporations and their exploitation of American’s desire to be healthy, so these readings were really insightful! To touch on the questions Carolyn posted, I was actually unaware of the weak meaning of “USDA certified” until these readings. This unfortunately means that I too, show confirmatory bias towards the organic foods that I buy.

    Similar to Carolyn’s remarks, I am of the opinion that growing your own food, farmers markets, and/or at least knowing exactly where your food comes from is where it’s at. Personally, my family invests every summer in CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Every week we pick up a big box of seasonal, locally grown produce – it’s absolutely wonderful. To acknowledge the most obvious criticism; yes. Programs like these can be/are somewhat pricey. Here’s how I look at it: the only time food is a waste of money is if it doesn’t get eaten. The day we receive the box my family spends a little time doing some planning and preparation on how we will eat all of the produce in the coming week. Sometimes we get vegetables we have never even heard of – but that’s what Google is for! We make sure to eat everything we get, and in turn we eat very healthy – and so it’s a cycle.

    As far as buying organic foods at the grocery store, after reading this article and learning more about the “Organic” label, I really don’t think there’s much of a difference between organic and non. Just give your produce a good rinse at the sink.

    In response to the cereal reading, I have no specific memories of being tricked by an advertisement as a child, however now as a young adult making my own purchasing decisions I get tricked all the time! Mostly by the beauty industry, who make me think this will make my skin perfect, etc. I find myself conflicted on the topic of letting companies market to children, because at the end of the day it’s the adults with the money making the purchases, and I think an important part of parenting is teaching your children to be able to see past an advertisement. I remember being taught that at an early age as a child, so I was not the kind that crazed over happy meal toys, or cereal boxes with prizes, etc. Do I think that companies have a responsibility towards the greater good of the public? Yes. But I also think that parents need to meet them in the middle and say “No” to their kids every once in a while.

    And my favorite cereal as a kid was a tie between Fruity Pebbles and Captain Crunchberries. OMNOMNOM

    • Robert Bamsey permalink
      July 4, 2014

      Alina, you make a lot of really good points. For the organic food, I too thought it was interesting how similar non and organic foods really are as opposed to how they are marketed. I also believe in going to farmers market or growing your own food is the way to go, because my dad grows a variety of vegetables in our backyard! When it comes to advertising, I feel that like yourself, I wasn’t ever tricked into buy cereal, but when I think about it more, the commercials probably did decide for me and make me want a certain type. Other than Reese’s Puffs which I would eat because I like Reese’s (I don’t care about their commercial), I feel I could have easily been manipulated, like you say about the beauty industry.

  6. Brooklyn Steele permalink
    July 3, 2014

    This is a great post and I enjoyed reading your post. I feel more organic products are just a way of marketing and jacking up the prices. Organic sounds nice and if it really is, great. But I don’t think it can even be possible to be organic unless things are fresh and from a farmers market. My grandparents have a huge garden and they don’t use anything to make their fruits and vegetables bigger, but they do have to use some pesticides because the bugs will eat them all up! So I wonder really how organic all these things in the special organic isle at the grocery store, or what is their meaning of organic.. No pesticides? No additives to make things larger? healthier in general? I agree with you and think it should be stated on each product why it is organic, because I think most products are different on how they are organic.

    My favorite cereal growing up was Froot Loops! Loved them and still do! And I have definitely been tricked by commercials and wanted to make me go out and buy it, which makes me think that I guess that’s just good advertising, or I’m a sucker for food! However, I do not think it is ethical to target children in anything to do with selling. It should be targeted to the parents. There are so many restrictions when doing research and other things with anyone under the age of 18. I think it should be illegal to target children, when for everything else children needs parents consent. Children are very easy to target and they want what looks and sounds cool and taste delicious. They are not worried about if it is healthy for them, and don’t want to eat anything that taste bad to them. I think it is unfair and unethical.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.