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What America Eats: The Triumph of Marketing Over Science

Fed Up director says companies deliberately mislead consumers

Stephanie Soechtig

What inspired you to make the movie?
The initial idea was [the film’s executive producer and narrator] Katie Couric’s. I was on her show promoting my last film, Tapped, and as I was leaving, she said, “I have been covering the diet trends and various exercise fads for 35 years, and yet the country and indeed the world is getting bigger and sicker. Would you ever be interested in taking a more comprehensive look at what’s going on?” The film covers a lot of ground. One of the most interesting things is that the conventional wisdom of what you eat is really based more on marketing than on science.

Haven’t some companies changed their advertising tactics in recent years?
They’d say they’re being more responsible. Now they’re trying to create this health halo over their products. They’ve got words like “all-natural” and “great source of fiber” on things that are really unhealthy. They’re deliberately misleading well-intentioned people who want to be eating the right things. ... The general public assumes if it says “natural,” it’s good for you. They don’t really know that there’s no standard for you to put the word “natural” on your product. There’s a proposal to ban some types of food and beverage marketing in schools.

There's a proposal to ban some types of food and beverage marketing in schools. 
One school had a Black History Month poster sponsored by McDonald's. Like, really? Do you really think that McDonald’s cares about Black History Month? It’s just any excuse to get into the schools. It’s been a deliberate and insidious infiltration. One of the people in our film says schools have become like a 7-Eleven with books.

Shouldn’t these marketers be able to advertise their products?
I just think kids should be off limits, and I think there should be truth in advertising, and that’s where it’s the government’s role to step in. The industry has really fought hard to self-regulate. It’s been 30 years of a failed experiment.

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