Thursday, February 3, 2011

Empty Big Words for Empty Big Calories

As someone who works in marketing for a living (this food thing is a paid hobby, at least sometimes is, if not here at GE--I can reclaim those letters, can't I?), I feel for those who have to say things you know they might not if there wasn't a paycheck pushing them to do so. Having only had to shill for arts and education in my career, I've never felt the need for a good shower-scouring that I must imagine someone working for, oh, BP or Monsanto must feel on what for me, at least, would be an hourly basis.

That as prelude, this passage from an article titled "Big Burgers Still Rule" in yesterday's Los Angeles Times really struck me:

"The bottom line is we're in the business of making money, and we make money off of what we sell," said Beth Mansfield, spokeswoman for CKE Restaurants Inc., which owns the Carl's Jr. and Hardee's chains. "If we wanted to listen to the food police and sell nuts and berries and tofu burgers, we wouldn't make any money and we'd be out of business."

Mansfield and CKE have a job to do, and that's keeping the so-called "Young Hungry Guys" up to their burgeoning belt-buckles in beefy caloric goodness, I get that. But the quote still rankles, for a variety of reasons that I want to discuss.

First, imagine the first half of that quote "the bottom line is we're in the business of making money, and we make money off what we sell," followed by a second half that said, "and we make money by selling kidnapped young women into white slavery. If we couldn't do that we'd not make any money and we'd be out of business." Sure, I picked a tad bit extreme of an example, but you see what I mean--we can question whether some businesses should exist, can't we? I'm not saying they should be outlawed or anything, but the fattening and unhealthying of America is at the least a moral issue, if not an economic one, given our healthcare system (or whatever's left of it after the Republicans get done undoing the tiny gains made in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act--hey, if the right can call it ObamaCare, I'm going to use the Dems' candy-coated name for it instead). We're all going to end up paying for that in higher insurance premiums, folks, so put down that Beefy Crunch Burrito Meal! (Side note: I can't resist to point out--watch the US obesity trends on this chart from the CDC, and notice how the politically red states turn red to signify the states with the most obesity. Just saying.)

Second, "food police" is not just creating a total strawman argument, but then also handing that strawman a handgun, truncheon, and the ability to read Carl's Jr. its Miranda rights. Police implies people with power, and no one has any power over CKE and its fellow fast food pushers, short of them serving Ebola-laced burgers, or Yum Foods (Taco Bell's corporate parent) having a really bad two-year streak with the CDC and health officials. (Side note 2, from Think Progress: "Under the House Republicans’ proposal to reduce non-defense discretionary spending, the FDA’s $2.3 billion budget [which makes up a whopping 0.07 percent of the overall federal budget] will be reduced by 20 percent, imperiling the jobs of 3,000 inspectors. And that’s child’s play compared to the 40 percent hit the FDA would be in for under the House Republican Study Committee’s spending plan, or the 62 percent cut it would see under Sen. Rand Paul’s [R-KY] budget. In a final kicker, Republicans are also threatening to defund the recently passed Food Safety Modernization Act, which boosts the inspection abilities of the FDA, even though it will actually save taxpayers money in the long run.")

Simply put, while there are more and more folks making a fuss about what people eat, hoping a change in the food industry (a term that in and of itself should tell us everything we need to know) can lead to healthier people and a healthier environment, it's not like Michael Pollan is going to go all Buford Pusser on Carl's Jr. with his baseball bat.

Third, did Mansfield really pull the "nuts and berries and tofu burgers" card? It seems she's sending a real mixed message, as her food police sure sound like hippie freaks to me. And we all know how hippies feel about the pigs. Nope, all she's doing is pulling out all the terms she can that might make readers go "yuck" and then throwing them at the people her company doesn't agree with. Shame on her and CKE.

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