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There is a long but fascinating piece on Salon.com ... excerpted from the book, "Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice," by Gyorgy Scrinis ... that looks at the outsized role that major food corporations have played in developing the nation's nutrition consciousness, especially as it relates to functional foods and even foods with genetically modified ingredients. The story notes that many food companies "market their foods not merely as restoring and maintaining good health but as enhancing health, optimizing bodily functioning and performance, and delivering a broad range of targeted health benefits relating to such issues as weight management, joint and bone health, immunity, digestive health, cardiovascular health, mental performance, and physical energy ... One of the aims of nutritional marketing is to create what I refer to as a nutritional facade around a food product - an image of the food’s nutritional characteristics and benefits. This nutritional facade then becomes the focus of food marketing campaigns. The other purpose of a nutritional facade is to cover up or distract attention from the underlying ingredients and processing techniques used to manufacture a food."

An excerpt:

"The marketing of foods with nutrient-content and health claims has become the primary means through which the public now encounters nutritional information. Beyond its role in selling products, nutritional marketing now also shapes and disseminates the functional nutritionism paradigm itself. Through these nutritionally engineered products and nutritional marketing practices, the food industry promotes the most simplified, decontextualized, deterministic, and exaggerated ways of understanding nutrients, foods, and the body. The food industry has also capitalized on, and accentuated the shift to, a more positive and functional view of foods and nutrients that target internal bodily functions. It also exacerbates the anxieties surrounding the perceived lack of these nutrients in conventional foods and dietary patterns.

"The sheer volume of nutritional advertising has maintained the focus of many consumers on nutrients and other functional components of foods, rather than on the quality of food products and their ingredients. The marketing budgets of some food corporations now run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, easily overwhelming government agencies’ modest nutrition education and health promotion efforts. Many of these food companies are transnational corporations that are able to invest significant resources in the development of new products, in new technologies for designing nutritionally engineered foods, and in scientific research to support the claimed health benefits of their products."

You can read the whole story here.
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