Saturday, March 12, 2005

School Nutrition Association and the influence of advertising

I gave the School Nutrition Association a hard time for advertising Kellogg's Poptarts to school nutrition program administrators at the same as it was asking Congress for additional money for nutrition education in schools. At first glance, you might think the association's more recent update [note -- link seems to be broken on the SNA website] has a better choice of advertisement -- from a purveyor of supposedly healthier "light" breakfast meats. I followed the link to Jones light sausages and patties, but couldn't find any nutrition information to corroborate the term "light."

So I looked further afield. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest's review of breakfast meats, Jones Sausages -- advertised as a light product -- get 74 percent of their calories from fat and have 280 grams of sodium. The CSPI article lists other products that are better healthy options for breakfast meats. Why doesn't the School Nutrition Association put those products on its website? Is it because they sway in whatever direction the advertising money blows?

Being trained as an economist, I have had it pounded into my brain that private businesses will be what they are, and it is often all for the best -- certainly it is often better than government intervention. But the flip side of letting the market work is that it is up to people in the private sector -- people like you and me -- to speak up for ourselves when we get outraged by this kind of hypocrisy. I'm not telling Jones to stop advertising their product. I'm telling the School Nutrition Association to stop pretending to have our children's interests at heart, even a little, at the same time as it is resisting efforts to promote better school meals and simultaneously takes money to advertise junk food and fake health food to school nutrition administrators. Get these ads off your website or people will truly have reason to mistrust you.

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