Let Individuals Take Responsibility for Their Own Food Choices

A new anti-soda video offers a welcome case for personal responsibility.

A controversial online video released this week by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, The Real Bears, is making waves for the way it portrays what the group says are the health risks of sweetened beverages like soda.

The video, an obvious parody of a series of well-known Coca-Cola ads, features polar bears that grow more obese as they consume soda after soda. As the video progresses, they lose teeth, suffer from impotence, and fall victim to diabetes (which necessitates a leg amputation by chainsaw).

Only in the end, when the bears dump their sodas in the ocean, are they portrayed as happy.

Coca-Cola, for one, is not pleased.

“This is irresponsible and grandstanding and will not help anyone understand energy balance,” says Coca-Cola spokeswoman Susan Stribling in a USA Today piece on the video. “It also distorts the facts while we and our industry partners are working with government and civil society on real solutions.”

In spite of the backlash against the video, I actually find portions of it attractive for several reasons.

First, I think it’s very well done and clever. Is it truthful? Not really, though CSPI paints it as a truthful response to soda industry “lies.” Persuasive? Not exactly. Though the video’s theme song is a syrupy Jason Mraz warning against “sugar,” CSPI has been explicit in promoting the video as an “anti-soda” clip. I don’t think they succeed there. But, as a professor currently teaching an undergraduate class on food and social media, I expect this campaign will be a great teaching tool. Maybe my students will see it differently.

Second, it’s a fantastic addition to the marketplace of ideas—which is exactly where debates over food should be hashed out. Civil society can and should provide consumers with information that can help us make better choices—as I noted last week while a panelist on KCRW’s To the Point program alongside Marion Nestle and others.

(Article continues below video.)

That’s a point I’ve made before, as in this Northeastern University Law Journal article on food safety earlier this year—in which I even invoke CSPI and Nestle:

[Thomas] Jefferson points… to the role of civil society in helping ensure our food is safe. Rather than subjecting opinion to coercion, we should subject it to debate within the marketplace of ideas. Such is the public sphere where advocacy groups with markedly different views of nutrition and health—including the Center for Science in the Public Interest (which publishes the often-excellent Nutrition Action Healthletter), as well as vegan, Paleo, organic, and myriad other groups… scholars like Nestle and [Michael] Pollan, business leaders, the legal community, and others[—]can debate issues and ideas on food and food safety, and where the public can turn for guidance and answers.

But, as Jefferson warns, coercion has no role to play in our decisionmaking. We may render to God and/or Caesar certain limited powers, but individuals retain the rest. In short, it’s up to us to pick and choose which information we follow. 

And it’s that point that’s perhaps the most important one the CSPI video makes—intentionally or not. Through words and visuals, the video argues that individuals have both the power and responsibility (“The power’s in your hands”—er, “claws”) to make changes to their own diets and to those of their families.

This is a distinct departure from CSPI’s traditional approach—which includes dozens of lawsuits over several decades against food producers and sellers and longstanding calls to restrict the marketing of foods CSPI considers unhealthy.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I can't tell, is this video against Global Warming or for Obamacare? Every special interest should have its own Attack Watch nipping at its heels.

    And if only everyone tried to force their ideals on people through persuasive videos and catchy tunes, the world would be a splendid place. But politicians don't get elected by letting your neighbors choose for themselves, and advocacy groups don't feel the self-satisfaction from just hoping things change through arguments alone.

  • DemosTheKnees||

    This bears repeating.

  • ||

    Icwutudidthar

  • Lord Humungus||

    I don't drink sugared soda/pop/coke (or whatever you heathens call it) anymore. Of course juice, slurpees, double-mochas, shakes, malts, etc are just as bad... but pop is associated with fast food, hence the double evil!

  • wareagle||

    but what separates you from the CSPI is that you do not seek to have govt impose your opinion on everyone else. You are simply making the choice(s) right for you.

  • pradaguccioutlet@gmail.co||

    Since the program’s creation, the Energy Department has guaranteed $16 billion in loans for a total of 26 projects. Although Section 1705 is mainly known for funding such high-profile bankruptcies as Solyndra and Abound Solar, the companies it helps generally do well. That’s because most of the loan guarantees have gone to projects backed by large and financially secure companies. For instance, the energy producer Cogentrix, recipient of a $90 million guarantee, is a subsidiary of the investment bank Goldman Sachs. There’s every reason to believe Congentrix could have obtained a loan on its own.cheap nfl jerseys State backing confers subtler advantages as well. In 2010 the Government Accountability Office concluded that federal subsidies signal to investors that a company is relatively safe, a perception that helps attract additional private capital. During a July 18 statement before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Craig Witsoe, former CEO of Abound Solar, one of the Section 1705 companies that recently went under, explained that his company managed to collect an additional $350 million from private investors after it had secured its government guarantee. Much of that funding could be the product of the security that the federal support implied.

  • Rich||

    "This ... will not help anyone understand energy balance."

    I'll have to agree.

  • Sevo||

    "The perfect human diet, according to Dr. Jeff Ritterman: Kale. Salad. Tap water. Mercury-free fish. If you insist on eating grains, make it bulgur."

    And he's willing to use the power of the state to force you to eat that crap:
    "Richmond's soda tax campaigner"
    http://www.sfgate.com/health/a.....944783.php

  • LTC(ret) John||

    "Dr." Ritterman - you first, you last and you only.

  • Sevo||

    Hey, this is CA! It'll pass.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    In a sane and just world, Dr. Ritterman would have rope tied around his wrists. He then would be hung from the nearest lamppost. He would then be scourged until the skin of his back was completely flayed off. Animal feces would then be rubbed until his open wounds. He would stay there, hanging by his wrists as he dies from sepsis.

    Alas, our world is neither sane nor just.

  • ||

    Now that, folks, is quite the stuff made from dispensation of karmic justice!

    Bravo!

  • pradaguccioutlet@gmail.co||

    Since the program’s creation, the Energy Department has guaranteed $16 billion in loans for a total of 26 projects. Although Section 1705 is mainly known for funding such high-profile bankruptcies as Solyndra and Abound Solar, the companies it helps generally do well. That’s because most of the loan guarantees have gone to projects backed by large and financially secure companies. For instance, the energy producer Cogentrix, recipient of a $90 million guarantee, is a subsidiary of the investment bank Goldman Sachs. There’s every reason to believe Congentrix could have obtained a loan on its own.cheap nfl jerseys State backing confers subtler advantages as well. In 2010 the Government Accountability Office concluded that federal subsidies signal to investors that a company is relatively safe, a perception that helps attract additional private capital. During a July 18 statement before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Craig Witsoe, former CEO of Abound Solar, one of the Section 1705 companies that recently went under, explained that his company managed to collect an additional $350 million from private investors after it had secured its government guarantee. Much of that funding could be the product of the security that the federal support implied.

  • Voros McCracken||

    You are not going to lose weight and be healthy on that diet. The reason is that you are not going to stick to such a diet and busting an impossible to maintain diet tends to inhibit weight loss a lot less than sticking to one that includes stuff you actually enjoy eating.

    Furthermore, Ritterman thinks he knows a hell of a lot more about nutrition than he really does. Unless of course he believes that _this time_ the medical community has it all down unlike every other group of nutritional experts the last 60 years.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    I will not live on a planet without bacon.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    But it's SCIENCE. In the PUBLIC INTEREST.

    Resistance is futile, you ignorant mongrels.

  • ||

    I get all my calories from alcohol, so I guess I'm okay.

    OT Anyone see Atlas Shrugged yesterday? Any good? Couldn't possibly be worse than the first one.

  • ||

    energy balance

    Is simplistic garbage spread by retards. A calorie is not a calorie, dipshits.

  • ||

    Calorie- The energy needed to increase the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 °C at standard atmospheric pressure (101.325 kPa). This is approximately 4.2 joules.

  • yonemoto||

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calorie

    that's the 'small calorie'.

    "The large calorie, kilogram calorie, dietary calorie, nutritionist's calorie or food calorie (symbol: Cal) approximates the energy needed to increase the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1 °C. This is exactly 1,000 small calories or approximately 4.2 kilojoules."

  • Randian||

    That's still an absolute measurement.

    Warty's point is that there are different foods that metabolize differently (that is, more and less efficiently), but in cold science, yes, a calorie is a calorie.

  • yonemoto||

    yes, I'm aware of this. Nuts, for example, contain enzyme inhibitors that decrease caloric and nutritional value (plants don't like for you to eat their seeds - but they want you to eat the fruit so that you transport the seeds in your spoor).

    It was just more fun to be flippant.

  • ||

    Thanks. I guess I wasted all that money on an engineering degree.

  • DemosTheKnees||

    You're a joule of a commenter.

  • Pagan Priestess||

    I've known there was something hideously wrong with the energy balance hypothesis since high school. My best friend was grossly overweight from the waist down and hyper thin from the waist up. Was she eating too much or too little?

  • Voros McCracken||

    Depends on if you ask Sir Mix-a-lot or not.

    Coca Cola is a wonderful beverage that will make you fat if you drink it obsessively. Of course it shares that in common with most other things you consume obsessively.

    My big issue with the ad is that the amount of ignorance the scientific community has toward the effects of diet and nutrition (and even body weight) on our health is much greater than our knowledge of same. A certain amount of humility when making nutrition claims is called for, and that level of humility tends to be completely absent in the debate currently on all sides. Chopping off polar bear limbs because they drink Coke does not qualify.

    Eat less, move more and try and be a little sensible about what constitutes good and bad foods. You'll do about as well as you probably can that way.

  • Randian||

    A calorie is not a calorie, dipshits.

    What's heavier, a pound of feathers or a pound of iron?

  • ||

    I know this thread is long dead. However...shut the fuck up, Tulpa.

  • Randian||

    You aren't using the terminology correctly. Ssorry that offends you so.

  • ||

    What is "energy balance" referring to here? Biological homeostasis?

  • BakedPenguin||

    The idea that weight gain or loss is determined simply by the amount of calories you eat - minus calories you expend. That there is no difference in how fats, protein or carbs are metabolized.

  • Voros McCracken||

    Well I think the discussion revolves not around there being no difference, I believe everyone agrees that there is. I think the dispute is whether just because the body metabolizes different macro-nutrients differently, doesn't mean that this necessarily has significant effects on weight gain or loss.

    The problem is that it's a hard thing to study, and different papers have been published with seemingly opposite results (like on the Glycemic Index).

    For someone like me trying to lose substantial amounts of weight, but trying to do so based on the best available science, it's very hard because the best available science is so shaky and often contradictory. I have managed to do so, but I still have a ways to go yet.

  • Pagan Priestess||

    If you want the best available science, and you haven't gotten to it yet, I highly recommend Gary Taubes' "Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health".

  • Robert||

    The idea that weight gain or loss is determined simply by the amount of calories you eat - minus calories you expend.


    That's a truism, but it's obviously not all that's relevant. It's like saying that heart disease is simply a matter of the fact that the pumping action of the heart is essential to circulation.

    Of course the law of conservation of matter y energy is always there, but that doesn't explain what determines how much energy one will expend or want to take in.

  • YinxDoo||

    Well, you have to admit that dude makes a lot of sense!

    www.UA-Anon.tk

  • ||

    You've been going downhill for a while, Botboy. Maybe it's time you were put down.

  • Boehm Houle||

    You all miss the point of the ad: bears should not drink soda. Who could have a problem with that. They should stick to their traditional diet of seals and aboriginal people. Life in balance....

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    The next video should show the U.S. Coast Guard arresting the bears and the Environmental Crimes Division of the U.S. DOJ, with the assistance of the U.S. EPA, prosecuting them, for causing pollution by pouring all those chemicals into the ocean.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Please tell me there's Alt Text on that picture that says "...and a sip for my homies..." and that I'm just not seeing it

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    If CSPI has made a public announcement of any type that seems to support personal choice, rely upon it, it's an accident. If truth in labeling laws applied to 'public service' organizations CSPI would be required to have one reading "100% fatuous self-importance. Do not expose to naked truth as an explosion may result."

  • AngrySodas||

    I love people, especially those of a conservative persuasion, who run so fast from the impact of cultural and even marketing influence. It is as if they believe people are not at all influenced by what is about us.

    The anti-sugar campaign efforts, and more specifically the anti-soda campaigns, exist because people are too lazy to get to the underlying issue. Food, and especially fast food, is not about our diets; it is about how quickly, conveniently and affordably big business can regularly take money from consumers. For this reason, we have to design a customer empowerment strategy that is as powerful as the tactics used against us. It is no accident that children recognize Ronald McWhatever more reliably at about age 3 than they do their own names ... people with profit intentions have made it that way.

    I came up with an alternative that I have posted at http://angrysodas.wordpress.com. It allows consumers to take back a portion of the ATM/credit card money processing system we as a nation have created and to use that modified system to collect a nickel for each purpose of foods, much like a plastic donation jar at a checkout stand. Only in this case the money is instantly transferred to charitable food empowerment agencies that convince the food industry to listen to us as we demand fast but good and affordable alternatives. This approach is worth much much much more than just pretending we hate sugar or sodas .... Let's get real and empowered!

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    I know I've said this before, and maybe you-all are tired of reading it, but I want to repeat a small plea.

    Could we possibly celebrate having reached a point where the commonest dietary problem of our poor is that they are too fat? Just a little? It hasn't happened too much, throughout history. Maybe just a small commemorative weekend, before we go back to using obesity as an excuse to meddle with peoples' lives?

  • Robert||

    Mr. Linnekin must not be familiar with anti-drugs advocates, who seem to be capable of simultaneously, or alternating in rapid succession, claiming that various substances and their purveyors victimize consumers by stripping them of their ability to refuse them, and that the consumers of those substances are to blame for choosing to do so.

  • Robert||

    That's not the only doublethink anti-drugs advocates are capable of. The can also rapidly switch between proclaiming the drug "abuser" to be the "other", someone who will wreck your business as an employee and your society in general; and to be so indistingishable from everyone else that you need to test them to find out, and besides, societal and personal conditions have nothing to do with predisposing one to a drug problem.

    And it doesn't stop with drugs. With rape, it doesn't appear to be doublethink, but an alliance between those with opposing ideas: those who say rape has nothing to do with normal sexual desire and gratif'n, and those who say all heterosexuality (and much male homosexuality) is effectively rape.

  • ||

    This is a better approach than banning soft drinks, however I doubt CSPI has changed it's methods, or views this as anything other than one item in a larger disinformation / negative publicity campaign.

  • jdgalt||

    Please stop helping "CSPI" (and similarly "PCRM") defraud the public by using their phony names. Both are merely fronts for PETA, the animal-rights-nut-movement group which wants to outlaw the meat industry for what amount to religious reasons.

  • pradaguccioutlet@gmail.co||

    Unfortunately for Johnson, each party also thinks the other party can be too libertarian – Republicans on economics, Democrats on social policy. He also faces the third-party Catch-22: He doesn’t get much media coverage because he doesn’t have much popular support – which he cannot get without media coverage.cheap nfl jerseys Besides, many people do not want to vote for someone who cannot win. A vote for a third-party candidate, they think, is a wasted vote. Johnson disagrees. “A wasted vote,” he says, “is a vote for someone you don’t believe in.” By that standard, millions of Republicans and Democrats will be throwing their votes away on Nov. 6. Johnson voters – what few there are – will not.

  • Support Obama888||

    Well, I got what I deserved. Although I hesitated, I went to the HufPo Streisand link, just to be a thorough little reader of this essay. Now I ruined my Saturday morning coffee experience. Belch.
    Leftists truly are a self-delusional lot, what with their hair-pulling threats of "returning to Bush policies." They should love Bush. From war, to civil liberties smack downs, to government expansion, Obama apparently loved "the way we were." He is W,cheap nfl jerseys and Romney would have done the same if he became pres.
    I say, "would have" because according to the same HufPo page, the electoral map indicates that this election is over. I figured it was an empty suit squeaker win, but not an impending blowout. Would have been fascinating stuff if Romney won by Gallup's seven percent but still lost the electoral vote by the same margin.

  • شات عراقنا||

    thanks

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