7 votes

Avoiding "Health washing" at the Grocery Store

5 comments

  1. Victoria Link
    I feel as gullible to this as everyone else (considering i used the phrase "Super-food" to refer to Kelp here on Tildes - eep!). But this article provides some helpful context on how to avoid...

    I feel as gullible to this as everyone else (considering i used the phrase "Super-food" to refer to Kelp here on Tildes - eep!). But this article provides some helpful context on how to avoid "health washing" when shopping at the grocery store.

    4 votes
  2. [3]
    balooga Link
    This is a decent article, and it correctly calls out that this is nothing new. Companies have been doing this for many decades. We should all train ourselves to view product packaging with...

    This is a decent article, and it correctly calls out that this is nothing new. Companies have been doing this for many decades. We should all train ourselves to view product packaging with skepticism by default, remembering that claims made there are done to sell, not educate. If you're looking critically at packaging you're a "tier 2" shopper, which is better than just buying indiscriminately ("tier 1"). But there's also a "tier 3" which involves due diligence in researching products before ever entering the store. This requires a lot more effort, but there are many rewards for being an informed consumer. Granted, not every product category is worth that time investment, but foods are a good place to start.

    There is one part of the article that I think deserves scrutiny:

    “People think organic means there’s less fat in it, less sugar, and they have association that extends beyond the actual meaning of the food,” says André. “But organic doesn’t mean the food is healthier for you. Just that it’s organic.”

    Meanwhile, scientific claims were effective in a different way–and often to a smaller subset of people. If you have celiac disease, “gluten free” might imply healthiness to you but not someone who could eat wheat without repercussions. Similarly, “high protein” could make a food appear healthy to people focused on muscle growth but not others.

    So what should we do when facing packaging that’s been proven to delude our way of thinking?

    Labels like "organic" and "gluten free" are specific, verifiable certifications with purposeful meanings. The inclusion of those on a package is not the same as marketing speak like "wholesome" or "part of a balanced breakfast." A non-celiac shopper might not get much value from a GF badge, but it's vital for someone with that condition. When I shop for organic foods, I'm not doing it because I think they have less fat or sugar, I'm doing it because I don't want to consume pesticides or benefit Monsanto. There may be uninformed shoppers who don't know the meanings of certain words, but that doesn't mean the words are there to mislead. Nor should they be removed from the packaging, because they convey valuable information.

    I think this part of the article is making some tenuous connections, conflating two markedly different categories of labels in bad faith.

    2 votes
    1. Greg Link Parent
      I'd say if it's purely informational, it'll probably be on the back in 12pt Arial, next to the nutritional info. If they've chosen to splash it across the front of the packaging, it's marketing -...

      I'd say if it's purely informational, it'll probably be on the back in 12pt Arial, next to the nutritional info. If they've chosen to splash it across the front of the packaging, it's marketing - whether it happens to also be factual and meaningful (or not) is largely irrelevant to most consumers.

      I think this part of the article is making some tenuous connections, conflating two markedly different categories of labels in bad faith.

      From my reading, the article is identifying the fact that the consumers conflate those categories - likely due to their marketing use - and that the true meaning is obscured by this.

      3 votes
    2. krg Link Parent
      As far as I know, organic foods still use pesticides but they happen to be non-synthetic. You'll be exposed to less, but if you're one to trust regulatory bodies the levels that are present in...

      As far as I know, organic foods still use pesticides but they happen to be non-synthetic. You'll be exposed to less, but if you're one to trust regulatory bodies the levels that are present in non-organic foods is of no concern to begin with. Organic farming practices are not without concerns.

      1 vote
  3. krg Link
    Nutrition facts are all I look at when shopping for food. Of course, you have to trust that the batch you're buying is within the bounds of the nutrition facts stated and that the nutrition facts...

    Nutrition facts are all I look at when shopping for food. Of course, you have to trust that the batch you're buying is within the bounds of the nutrition facts stated and that the nutrition facts themselves are accurate. Assuming that's the case, though, you'll find nutrition facts tell pretty much the whole story on weather or not packaged foods can be considered "healthy".* For fresh fruits and vegetables, I may use a tool like WolframAlpha. Here's their entry for avocado. Couple those tools with your dietary goals and you'll be well on your way to truly healthy living.

    *possible contaminants could still be an issue. Or, you may want to know whether a crop was ethically harvested or not. Separate issues from base nutrition, but maybe worth considering...

    2 votes