Monday, December 10, 2012

The Talk The Food Industry Couldn't Bear To Hear

A little over a month ago I was invited by the Ontario Medical Association to give a talk at a food industry breakfast. I was asked to speak about what I thought the food industry could do to help further public health.

3 days prior to the talk, after my flights and hotel were booked, after I cancelled a day of patients, I was dis-invited. Apparently the conference organizer, Ron Reaman, a Senior VP of the international PR and communications firm Fleishman-Hillard, decided that it would be better if I didn't come. Why he decided that I can't tell you because despite being a Senior VP at an actual communications firm, he didn't do me the courtesy of communicating to me his concerns or offering me an apology - instead he had the Ontario Medical Association simply tell me that I was no longer welcome.

The good news is the internet's a much bigger venue than that small breakfast symposium and given I'd already put together my slide set, I figured why not post it online. Online I don't have a time keeper and given I'm not speaking solely to the food industry, I don't need to be as gentle with my messaging as I'd planned. Also good news is who I'll now be able to reach. My blog is read by policy makers, public health authorities, chief medical officers, professors, physicians/dietitians and other allied health professionals, journalists and nutrition bloggers the world over - folks that wouldn't have been attending that small, intimate, food industry sponsored breakfast. You'd almost think Mr. Reaman and Fleishman-Hillard were working for me and not for the food industry as uninviting me will enable me to communicate my message far further than I ever would have done otherwise.

So here's my talk. It's about what the food industry could do to improve public health, why they're not going to, and what we can do about it. But before you click it, a quick request - I want you to share it by means of every socially networked channel and email contact you have (any Redittors here?), because if Fleishman-Hillard the communications firm hired by the food industry to help cultivate good Big Food PR didn't want it heard, I figure it probably ought to get spread.

[Fair warning too - at one point I get a bit heated and use the word "ass", and believe it or not, I wasn't using it to refer to the food industry, or even to Ron Reaman.]



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53 comments:

  1. Thank You Yoni!
    Inspiring and maddening at the same time.
    I will do my best to spread the word amongst Nova Scotia dietitians,

    Edie Shaw-Ewald

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  2. So important. Fantastic presentation. Thanks Yoni.

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  3. i appreciate that you very clearly stated the food industry is doing it's job (although unethical at times and ingenous) and that it is our responsability, the collective we of health professionals, politicians, parents etc. to lobby for regulations and speak up. I like that you didn't imply that individuals "just need to be smarter shoppers".

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  4. Dr. Freedhoff, you said, “We need to level the playing field. There really aren’t any shortages of things we can do to regulate the food industry’s practice of misinforming consumers.”

    While it's certainly a good idea to "regulate the food industry’s practice of misinforming consumers," one wonders what sorts of things can be done to regulate the food industry's practice of misinforming academia and, through academia, politicians(1,2). Somehow, the low-fat/anti-saturated fat ideology needs to be reversed(3) and the omega-6 hazard addressed(4). Until these matters are straightened out, the food industry will continue to furnish the public with foods that stimulate overeating(5). Here's an excerpt from the Introduction to Food for Nought: The decline in nutrition by Ross Hume Hall, PhD, 1976:

    "Nourishment of the American populace has undergone a startling transformation since World War II. A highly individual system of growing and marketing food has been transformed into a gigantic, highly integrated service system in which the object is not to nourish or even to feed, but to force an ever-increasing consumption of fabricated products. This phenomenon is not peculiar to the American scene and occurs in every industrialized country. The United States, however, has progressed furthest in the transformation. Man can never be more than what he eats, and one would expect that a phenomenon with such profound effects on health and wellbeing as a radically changed system of supplying nourishment would be thoroughly documented and assessed by the scientific community. Such is not the case. The transformation has gone unmarked by government agencies and learned bodies. Government agencies, recipients of the public trust, charged with protecting and improving the public's food, operate as if the technology of food fabrication rested in pre-World War II days. Scientific bodies, supported by public funds and charged with assessing and improving the public's health, ignore completely the results of contemporary methods of marketing food...Failure to monitor and to appreciate the results of rapidly moving technology produces a brutal effect that forms the central theme of this book. Technology founded on mechanistic laws clashes head on with the processes of a natural world which adheres to very different laws. Modern industry, ignoring these biologic laws, molds and manipulates natural processes to suit and to promote its own mechanistic and economic goals."

    References

    1. http://www.refusetoregain.com/2012/10/i-get-lots-of-correspondence-from-readers-but-i-particularly-enjoyed-this-letter-from-david-brown-an-avid-writer-warrior-f.html
    2. http://www.drjaywortman.com/blog/wordpress/2012/06/14/this-is-how-it-works/
    3. http://jhmas.oxfordjournals.org/content/63/2/139.full
    4. http://www.asbmb.org/asbmbtoday/asbmbtoday_article.aspx?id=18365
    5. http://sciencenordic.com/vegetable-oils-promote-obesity


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  5. Anonymous10:32 am

    I AGREE!!! As dietitian, we have a huge job and responsibility at hand and need to work with the rest of our team...plocy makers, public health, physician colleagues etc

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  6. Anonymous11:41 am

    The Katrina example is dumb. When you had a flood, you scrambled to stack sandbags. Meanwhile the Dutch have engineered modern marvels to keep the ocean at bay, half their country is below sea level. Look outside your borders for a change, and you'll find better, healthier food, less incidence of allergies, and more home cooking.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous3:20 pm

      You still need to change what's in your own country.

      Delete
  7. Thank you! I also directed a thank you tweet to Ron Reaman (https://twitter.com/ron_reaman) thanking him for dis-inviting you....and becoming the catalyst for truly expanding consumer awareness. Thank you! Excellent presentation!

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  8. Anonymous12:25 pm

    Thank you for posting this video, and I was happy to share this on reddit. Let me know if there are any other action steps we can take to spread awareness!

    Reddit responds!
    http://www.reddit.com/r/videos/comments/14lrg2/physician_calls_on_redditors_to_spread_the_word/

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    Replies
    1. Dr Freedhoff,

      I am a trainer in Ottawa and I just found your presentation on reddit. Wow. I was in disbelief! I knew the industry was twisted but you took my understanding to a new level. Great job!

      I put my fat loss clients on the Slow Carb Diet. Have you heard of it?

      I will share your video,
      Best,
      Camron
      camronsabour.com

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    2. Any diet that leaves a person happily satisfied is good by me.

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  9. I can see why they were afraid - but if you were asked to give this to Public Health officials, they should be more afraid (or embarrassed)

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  10. On a long-term the fair food industry will survive!
    We, the scientists, have to blame ourselves! There are still too many scientists, who create daily a lot of confusion... with grants and support from the industry!!
    Even if the industry would be fair and declaring the right content, the community is stillnot able to use this information in an appropriate manner! In fact,only few,very few people are aware of the own personal capaicy of burning energy (calories). This is to say, we might eat healthy...and die obese!!! And this is exactly whre we started: Intructing people on why we can become obese even eathing healthy!!! Our book has,accordingly the title. Eating healthy and dying obese!¨ www.vitasanas.chHealthy greetings from Switzerland, Leoluca Criscione

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  11. It doesn't matter what you eat, just as long as you've got your attitude together. Energy is energy. If you can shit steel, you can certainly eat it. And even if it has not a single amino acid, you can live off it. You just have to get your mind right. Put your intent and your heart in the correct place and nature will follow. Nobody understands this, because they're too busy plucking chicken feathers. Isn't that the truth?

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  12. I just got to the bit about Cocoa Cola and cried, "Burn!"
    Great presentation, Yoni. I'm going to share this on my own blog.

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  13. Anonymous2:46 pm

    Excellent video.

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  14. I often snicker at Snickers et al, too. I will post this to my 1950s diet blog ASAP.

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  15. Anonymous3:08 pm

    Great show.

    Nothing really new here, but good on you for reminding us. I'm going to send this to my kids.

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  16. Holy crap... between this, hormone-laced, mercury-filled proteins and GMO foods, how is the average consumer supposed to shop? Even "real" food has got all the nutrition taken out of it. It's like looking down the barrel of a gun no matter which way you turn. I'm going to go eat a bag of swedish berries now because really... does it matter? At least my pancreas will get a workout. For the average consumer, affording "real" food is getting to be less and less of a possibility. how depressing. But regardless, the information is greatly appreciated. :(

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    1. real food is getting to be less affordable? yes food prices are rising but compare to processed food it is cheep. stay out of the center iles in the supermarket, produce dairy and meat are on the outside run, start cooking from scratch (it takes a little effort) it is worth it. the processed food is in expensive packaging and not good for you.
      BTW I am overweight good food is not diet food, I just like it too much.

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  17. Mr. Ron Reaman's business email address is: Ron.reaman@fleishman.ca

    I intend to send him a message about the disinvite.

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  18. Anonymous4:01 pm

    Equalize the sound, the constant fade-outs are annoying. Interesting video though!

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  19. Anonymous6:16 pm

    I find your conclusion about government regulation to be completely at odds with your statement that the food industry isn't responsible for telling us what is really healthy. If it's not the food industry's responsibility to give us good nutritional information, then it shouldn't be the government's responsibility to force them to give us good nutritional information.

    It's our responsibility to determine what we put into our bodies and our childrens' bodies. When you shift the responsibility to the government to force the food industry to give us better info, you make the problem worse. First, you give people the false sense that they don't have to worry about what they're eating and feeding their kids. The government has it all taken care of. This contributes to the overall decline in personal responsibility in this country. Second, you give the food industry an incentive to make sure that any regulations that are passed don't really negatively impact their business much. People will perceive that the government has passed a law that helps them, thinking that it's safe to thinking before the buy things. When in reality, little to nothing has changed.

    It's great that people want to make sure that kids have healthy food to eat. And putting information into public hands about misleading advertising practices is a great way to help. But getting the government involved is a misguided attempt to fix the problem that will ultimately end up making the problem worse (or, best case scenario, improving things to such a marginal degree as to not really matter).

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly.

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    2. I see your point about government involvement , and the responsibility for our own well fare. but regulation in the food industry is importend
      someone has to make the rules, industry has to follow these rules and someone has to enforce them. we as consumers have no inside in to the manufacturing plants or really know what is good for us.
      food safety is already controlled, just not good enough and by the wrong people. we need better rules and better enforcement.

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    3. Anonymous10:37 pm

      I agree that we need strong regulation but also agree that we should not rely on them to protect us entirely.
      That being said, who has time to make sure everything we purchase, eat & drink, drive, would be the best choice for our health or our lifestyle requirments.
      What the government is for; for all the things you are not a specialist in or have little knowlege of.
      What you are for; to provide the guidance that our government so desperatly needs and to specialise in what you enjoy doing best.

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  20. You're right that the food industry will never change voluntarily. The paradigm is too profitable. They can sell sugar-spiked pseudofood to the sugar addicts, then sell them diet remedies that don't work, and medicines to manage (not cure) the chronic conditions they develop, and, having destroyed people's self esteem, can then market all kinds of other crap to those same people. The food industry, and also Big Pharma, have no interest in health. Chronic illness is far more extractive of revenue streams.

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  21. Bravo! No wonder they dis-invited you, Dr. F! They must have gotten wind of your slide show content, which would have left those "food industry breakfast" organizers squirming in their seats. Which reminds me: why is the Ontario Medical Association in cahoots with the food industry in hosting this type of breakfast in the first place, particularly when the gutless OMA apparently marches to the food industry's drum?

    Loved the Coca-Cola references - now there's a company more powerful than any of us could even begin to imagine, really getting a boost when Coca-Cola Company purchased Columbia Pictures in 1983 and became global champions of product placement, guaranteeing that movie actors would be chugging Coke – and then Diet Coke – onscreen for decades to come. Brilliant marketing, really.

    Congrats - I've reTweeted this post in hopes that the squirming continues . . .

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  22. I'll see what I can do to get your video more publicity. Our readership is in the millions per year, and nutrition is one of the important parts of the big picture that we cover. It's not our primary focus, but it is a major area of interest for me (a fellow Ottawan who has learned to manage metabolic syndrome).

    So much of our modern diet is long-term toxic (sugar, gluten, glyphosate residues, bt toxin etc), and so many people have a highly disturbed carbohydrate metabolism thanks to years of insulin resistance and leptin resistance. We are eating for chronic inflammation and the diseases of civilization.

    Cheers,

    Nicole Foss

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  23. You are right about how ads targeted to kids really can be dangerous to the health of the nations.

    But do we have to attack them. Maybe there are better way to work with rather than against them? I heard how Jillian Michaels said that she told Subway she would promote their brand for free if they remove HFCS from their ingredients, and Subway did listen. She was invited to the plants of these companies and learned how they listen to our voices but they have to slowly change so they don't lose sales. Like what would it take beyond legistration?

    Maybe make a VDO teaching kids to read labels, lol?

    Just curious, who would be the audience that caused the uninvitation?

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  24. Any possibility of using the audio of your video as part of my podcast, the Shine Springs Farm Shinecast? Or would you be interested in doing an interview for the podcast? It's new and small but growing.

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    Replies
    1. Share away! Podcast wise, feel free to get in touch via email....but pretty slammed these days.

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  25. So how does one go about changing this legislation? Are there petitions? You've succeeded in alerting the hive mind, but what direction should people go?

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    1. Just speak up. Right now there's not a huge amount of political will but in part it's because constituents aren't speaking up. We've got a long way to go, but I'd say if New York is the bell weather - we're waking up.

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    2. Anonymous1:18 am

      I think you are all desperately politically ill informed, especially you Mr. yoni.

      None of the people who caused the financial crisis went to jail, the people won't regulate the industry because they are too corrupt.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJqM2tFOxLQ

      Capitalism hits the fan on why regulation doesn't work:

      Dr. Richard D. Wolff

      http://fora.tv/2010/03/03/Richard_Wolff_Capitalism_Hits_the_Fan

      Most of the electorate is too uninformed. Not only that people don't work on 'free choice' and 'responsibility' as a doctor you ignore the laws of nature and science.

      Human decision making is not how the enlightenment thought it was, so many of your "solutions" are non-starters from the get go because they are based in an ideological and non-scientific ideological worldview (capitalism and free market).

      #1 People aren't "free to choose" this is why the food industry has been so successful, people do not make rational decisions.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYmi0DLzBdQ

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    3. Anonymous6:10 pm

      If people were more well-informed and were more responsible they 'would' make rational decisions. They need to stop blaming other things and start taking more responsibility for their actions and choices.

      We ARE free to choose, they just 'choose not to'.

      Delete
  26. Sarah3:50 pm

    Bravo! As an ex-food marketer for one of the world's largest manufacturers, this really resonated with me. I agree with everything you said, and only wish it were better understood.

    Simply expressing shock, horror and blaming the food manufacturers will never provide a solution - the playing field must change. Oh, and yes, you are right that there are many decent people working therein, often uncomfortable at the field on which they play. Personally I had to get out ...

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  27. Did you know in the U.S. that we're actually giving tax deductions out to big companies that go ahead and advertise and market products that contribute to childhood obesity? Please sign the petition to ask Congress to support U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich's bill to end tax deductions for companies that sell junk food to children as part of negotiations to avoid a fiscal cliff.
    http://www.change.org/petitions/congress-end-tax-deductions-for-companies-that-sell-junk-food-to-children-2

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  28. Anonymous6:51 pm

    Don't farmers have a strong lobby group that will help educate the public? I would think farmers would benefit most from teaching our society the benefits of eating fiber and nutrient-rich foods, ie fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and nuts.

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  29. Personally I get very frustrated with the food industry's technique of adding sugar to every product imaginable, but I agree that it's not the "responsibility" of the food industry to self-regulate for nutritional quality. The incentives for profit all go the wrong way, and it will take a lot of political will to overcome the money factor. And that takes enough evidence to support regulations, and public awareness that regulations are needed.

    If only public health had the marketing skill (and resources) of the food industry!

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  30. Just watched this, and into my head pops Roger Waters singing The Tide is Turning. Brilliant!

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  31. Anonymous5:12 am

    Thank you so much for this presentation. This information will help me to make much better choices for my family.

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  32. Anonymous9:34 am

    OMG this is SOOOO amazing. So proud of this CANADIAN DOCTOR! :-)

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  33. Joyce9:41 am

    You rock! Keep telling it like it is!!

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  34. Glad that you posted this, and shame on the meeting organizers for bowing to pressure. As you know, we don't agree about 'all that is nutrition', but manufacturers and marketers are getting away with murder. Health Canada and PHAC do need to show leadership policy wise, but we have a federal government which does not give a fig about nutrition! (excuse bad food pun). I put this on my Facebook...

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  35. Wo hoo! Love this. Thanks for putting it together.

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  36. Food is obviously a common thread that binds us all.

    Interstingly, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA.gov) published a finding in 2007 that estimated that if in fact each American were to eat 2/3, (2 fruits and 3 veg) we can't grow it. There is just not enuf acherage.

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  37. Anonymous6:41 pm

    As a Chef, Nutritionist and Personal Trainer it is wonderful for me to finally see a doctor stand up and speak on these matters. Thanks and VERY WELL DONE!!!

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  38. As a Mom, I'd be happy to see food labels actually be required to list what is in them in PLAIN language !

    And none of this "dairy-free" stuff that contains casein ! Hello - casein is a dairy protein, so how is that a dairy-free product ?

    Yes, I am bias. My son has a dairy allergy that is anaphylactic in nature. Plain language on labels could mean the difference between life and death for him.

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  39. The fact that they withdrew their invitation to you speaks volumes (about them). Our food industry is pretty dirty and we need people like you to keep drawing attention to it in whatever way you can. Thanks

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  40. The western world has a problem right now and we need every man, woman and whatever to fix it. The simple fact is if there is a market for garbage then garbage will be sold to the masses and the problem continues

    We need this type of approach from the big hitters in the fat loss market place. Far as I am concerned Nutrition is KING

    Well done and many thanks

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  41. This video echoes many of the sentiments I express in my Facebook group, and the reason why I started it 2 1/2 years ago. People have to take responsibility for their own actions, and start thinking for themselves.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/157497174306690/

    An excellent presentation. We need much more of this out there.

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