Monday, May 07, 2007

The New Latin American Food Pyramid

It's called the Camino Mágico and it was created by a group called the "Latino Nutrition Coalition".

In short, it is the worst example of marketing trying to pass itself off as nutrition that I've ever seen.

The Camino is a 16 page, confusing booklet whose Mission according to the last page is:

"Camino Mágico will help us make healthier food choices at the grocery store."
What it should read is:
"Camino Magico will help us sell products at the grocery store."
Whose products? Well the kindly and altruistic founding members of the the Latino Nutrition Coalition of course. Who makes up this wonderful and healthful coalition? Well, on the last page, there's a handy list:

  • Oldways
  • Mission Foods
  • ConAgra Foods
  • Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board
  • Florida Tomato Committee
  • Goya Foods
  • Tampico Beverages
  • The Peanut Institute
  • US Potato Board
  • USA Rice Federation
  • Silk Soymilk
  • Alliance Enterprises
  • Unilever

    You think they've been able to affect how this booklet was put together?

    Um, have you ever seen a food pyramid with branded products before?

    What's worse is the fact that in their suggested recipes segment, where they tell you which brands of foods to buy, the portion sizes are absolutely astronomical....it almost looks like um, pictures you might find in product advertisements, where size is a marketable commodity and an enticement for purchase.

    There's also this neat Supermarket Map that will show you, with brand photographs, where to find the products sold by the various groups listed above.

    Basically, it's a nutrition infomercial.

    Want your product included? Then simply visit the Camino Mágico's Sponsorship Opportunities page where you'll find this for sale list:

  • Additional meal-page product photos $1,500 each $5,000 for 4
  • Product photo(s) in supermarket map $2,000 each
  • Brief nutritional tips (only 4 available)$2,000 each
  • “How to read a label” page $15,000
  • Launch event sponsor (Your foods served; program input; signage, etc.) $2,500 per city, $6,000 for 3 cities

    Or you can join the Latino Nutrition Coalition itself. What are the acceptance criteria you ask? Well money of course. Depending on the size of your company, you have to pay more. Do you need to know anything about nutrition? Nope - and here's a bonus, as one of the listed perks of membership your company will now enjoy,
    "Visibility in scientific, culinary and media circles as a company committed to good health and high-quality products."
    So people will in fact think you know something about nutrition and care about their health even though you don't.

    Way to go Latino Nutrition Coalition, it's possible you've increased my nutritional cynicism by a notch - something I wasn't sure was possible, and it didn't even cost me anything!

    I'm not really going to bother discussing the nutritional merits of the Camino as the majority of its copy space is dedicated to brand placement.

    I do have one niceish thing to say about the Camino and the Coalition. While the Camino is certainly just an advertisement and the Coalition just a lobby group, at least they're up front about their work. Contrast that with Canada's Food Guide and the American Food Pyramid - both also simply advertisements with Health Canada and the USDA serving up lobby groups' interests under the false guise of science and concern rather than serving them up truthfully for what they are - reflections of food politics.

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  • 1 comment:

    1. Anonymous2:03 pm

      Apparently not all Camino Magico brochures are created alike. I've been reviewing the "generic version" ordered directly from Oldways (as opposed to the Fiesta supermarket version in your picture). There is still some crass self-serving commercialism in the Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner suggestion pages highlighting branded products, but not to the extent shown in the "sponsored" version.

      However as a volunteer looking for nutrition education materials for a community service program I find the pyramid much, much easier to understand and explain that the official latest release of the USDA one, which, with it's vertical slices is absolutely non-intuitive!

      A couple of very useful features of the generic Camino Magico include the:
      1. Balance the plate visual - this is one the best I've seen very graphically demonstrating that fruits and grains should make up 3/4 of the plate and meats fish beans the final 1/4.
      2. Portion guidelines
      3. Generic (unbranded) shopping list organized by food groups highlighting Latino foods.

      If you can steer me to some better materials on good nutrition for the Latino population I would love to see them. you can contact me at gattamom@gmail.com

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