CHAIN RESTAURANTS TO DISPLAY SUGAR CONTENT IN PREPACKAGED FOOD

Journalist and author of the book, Hooked: Food, Free Will, And How The Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions, Michael Moss joins us to discuss how the food industry plans to respond to the “Sweet Truth Act.”

Aired on November 15, 2022

 

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING.

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

NEW YORK CITY IS USING LEGISLATION LIKE THE SWEET TRUTH ACT TO TRY TO ENCOURAGE NEW YORKERS TO EMBRACE HEALTHIER EATING HABITS.

WHILE NUTRITION ADVOCATES WILL CERTAINLY CELEBRATE THE SPILL, THE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY AND PARTICULARLY THE LARGE CHAINS AFFECTED BY THE NEW LAW WILL NOT BE SO HAPPY ABOUT IT.

THE FOOD GIANTS, AS AUTHOR MICHAEL MOSS HAS DUBBED THEM, HAVE SPENT YEARS GETTING AMERICANS HOOKED ON SUGARY FOODS DESPITE ANY POTENTIAL NEGATIVE HEALTH CONSEQUENCES THEIR FOODS MIGHT HAVE.

THEY HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFUL BY KEEPING SECRET HOW HARMFUL THEIR FOODS CAN BE.

THE SWEET TRUTH WOULD FORCE THEM TO BE MORE TRANSPARENT AND FORCE NEW YORKERS TO THINK FOR CRITICALLY ABOUT WHAT THEY'RE EATING.

AND JOINING ME NOW TO TALK ABOUT THE DANGERS OF TOO MUCH SUGAR AND HOW THE FOOD INDUSTRY WILL RESPOND TO THE SWEET TRUTH ACT IS MICHAEL MOSS, A JOURNALIST REPORTING ON THE INTERSECTION OF FOOD, HEALTH, AND POLITICS.

AND HE'S ALSO THE AUTHOR OF THE CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED BOOK' HOOKED.'

THAT'S QUITE A TITLE.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

GOOD TO BE HERE.

GREAT TO TALK ABOUT ONE OF MY FAVORITE SUBJECTS, SUGAR.

LET'S START JUST RIGHT IN AT THE BEGINNING, SUGAR.

IT'S A SOURCE OF COMFORT.

IT'S SEEN AS A REWARD.

YOU EAT BRUSSELS SPROUTS YOU GET DESSERT.

THAT'S GOT SUGAR IN IT.

BUT THE THINGS WE MIGHT ASSOCIATE WITH SUGAR, YOU'RE SAYING NO, NO, NO, SUGAR IS IN WAY MORE PLACES THAN YOU THINK.

I THINK IT'S REASONABLE FOR NUTRITION ADVOCATES, GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS TO FOCUS, HONE IN ON SUGAR AS BEING SOMETHING WE CAN WORK ON TO HELP US GET CONTROL OF OUR EATING HABITS.

SUGAR HAS LOTS OF EMPTY CALORIES, MEANING IT'S NOT GOING TO HELP US OR OUR KIDS GROW STRONG BODIES, STRONG MINDS.

IT'S ASSOCIATED WITH HEALTH TROUBLE.

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT STILL DOESN'T GIVE US ADVICE ON HOW LITTLE SUGAR TO EAT, BUT YOU ASK SOMEBODY LIKE THE HEART ASSOCIATION HOW MUCH WE SHOULD BE EATING AND THEIR OPINION IS SHOCKING.

IT'S A PORTION OF A CAN OF SODA IN AN ENTIRE DAY FOR EVERYTHING YOU EAT, NOT JUST A PORTION OF IT, IS THEIR LIMIT ON WHAT WE SHOULD BE EATING IN SUGAR TO AVOID HEART DISEASE AND OTHER THINGS.

FOR SOME PEOPLE, SUGAR IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST TRIGGERS TO CAUSE THEM TO EAT COMPULSIVELY.

IT'S REALLY COMPELLING TO GO TO A GROUP LIKE FOOD ADDICTS ANONYMOUS AND HEAR PEOPLE TALK ABOUT, YOU KNOW, DRIVING HOME FROM THE GROCERY STORE AND GETTING HOME AND THE CAR IS LITTERED WITH EMPTY WRAPPERS BECAUSE THEY HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO CONTROL THEMSELVES.

FOR THEM, THE SMALLEST AMOUNT OF SUGAR CAN CAUSE THEM TO ACT COMPULSIVELY.

THEN THE INDUSTRY.

I THINK SUGAR IS ONE OF THE BEST EXAMPLES OF THE INDUSTRY NOT JUST RESPONDING TO OUR LIKES AND DISLIKES IN FOOD, BUT CREATING THOSE LIKES, BECAUSE WHAT THEY DID WAS, THEY MARCHED AROUND THE STORE ADDING SUGAR TO THINGS THAT DIDN'T USED TO BE SWEET -- YOGURT AND BREAD AND SPAGHETTI SAUCE, SO THAT NOW SOME TWO-THIRDS OF THE PRODUCTS HAVE ADDED SUGAR.

THIS TREAT US TO EXPECT EVERYTHING WE EAT TO BE SWEET.

SO WHEN YOU GRAB YOUR KIDS TO THE PRODUCE AISLE AND TRY TO EAT MORE OF THE STUFF EVERY NUTRITIONIST SAID WE SHOULD EAT MORE OF, AND THE BITTER NOTES OR SOUR NOTES YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE A HARD TIME OR A RIOT ON YOUR HAND.

THAT'S THE SUGAR SITUATION IN OUR DIETS THESE DAYS.

CAN YOU TALK JUST A LITTLE BIT ABOUT -- BECAUSE I THINK SOMETIMES WHILE ALL OF US MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE FELT IT, LIKE I JUST NEED A KITKAT, WE FELT SOMETHING AKIN TO THAT.

WE MIGHT NOT UNDERSTAND WHY.

WHAT MAKES SUGAR ADDICTIVE?

WHAT IS IT IT'S DOING TO OUR BRAINS?

THE INDUSTRY CALLS IT BLISS POINT.

WHEN THEY HIT THE PERFECT AMOUNT OF SWEETNESS, THEIR PRODUCTS ARE GOING TO FLY OFF THE SHELF.

YOU PUT A DAB OF SUGAR ON YOUR TONGUE, THAT'S SENDING A SIGNAL TO THE REWARD CENTER OF YOUR BRAIN, WHICH IS TELLING YOU, WOW, MICHAEL, I LOVE.

THAT LET'S GET MORE OF THAT.

IT'S THE SAME WITH SALT.

AND FATS KIND OF WORK IN ANOTHER WAY.

BUT THAT'S ONE OF THE BIGGEST THINGS HIGHLY PROCESSED FOODS HAVE GOING FOR THEM, THEIR ABILITY TO EXCITE THE BRAIN AND GET US TO DO THINGS WE OTHERWISE MIGHT NOT IF WE THOUGHT ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES.

WELL, WHAT ABOUT THE FACT THAT THERE IS AN ATTEMPT AT LEAST TO GET NEW YORKERS EAT HEALTHIER, BUT AS YOU MENTIONED A LOT OF US AREN'T REALLY FAMILIAR WITH OR ACCUSTOMED TO EATING FOODS THAT ARE HEALTHIER.

IS THAT REALISTIC?

IS THAT TRYING TO FORCE PEOPLE TO DO SOMETHING THEY'RE NOT READY TO DO?

THIS KIND OF FALLS IN THE CATEGORY OF WARNINGS.

CAUTIONING US AGAINST BUYING SOMETHING.

I HAVE A LITTLE DATA FOR YOU I GOT.

THERE'S A PROFESSOR AT CORNELL, JOHN COLLIE, DID THIS WONDERFUL EXPERIMENT WITH COLLEAGUES UP THERE.

THEY LOOKED AT EATING HABITS IN THE UNIVERSITY RESTAURANTS, AND THEY POSTED CALORIE POSTING FOR THE FOODS IN THE RESTAURANTS TO SEE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN.

AND SURE ENOUGH, THE STUDENTS SORT OF CUT BACK ON TOTAL NUMBER OF CALORIES THEY ATE ESPECIALLY IN APPETIZERS AND ENTREES.

NOT SO MUCH IN DESSERTS AND DRINKS.

THE BAD NEWS IS THEY ONLY CUT BACK CALORIE CONSUMPTION BY 3%. I THINK WHAT WE'RE LOOKING AT WITH THAT IS IT'S DIFFICULT TO CHANGE CONSUMER HABITS BY WARNING THEM, BY SCARING THEM, BY PREACHING.

IN PART BECAUSE THEY OWN THE REAL ESTATE ON RESTAURANT MENUS AND ON PRODUCT PACKAGES.

THEY KNOW HOW TO GO AFTER OUR DEEPEST BIOLOGY AND GET US EXCITED ABOUT BUYING THEIR PRODUCTS.

WHAT NUTRITION ADVOCATES REALLY LOVE AND WHAT THE INDUSTRY REALLY HATES, AND THEY'RE FIGHTING AGAINST REALLY HARD, ARE TAXES.

BECAUSE WE ATE -- RATHER WE LOVE MONEY AS MUCH AS WE LOVE SUGAR, RIGHT?

SO PLACES THAT HAVE ADOPTED A FEW PENNIES TAX ON SUGARY PRODUCTS, I THINK BY AND LARGE YOU'RE SEEING A REDUCTION IN CONSUMPTION OF THOSE PRODUCTS.

IT'S HELPING PEOPLE TO REGAIN CONTROL OVER THEIR EATING HABITS.

WELL, LET'S GO BACK TO SOME OF FOOD GIANTS YOU MENTIONED.

WHEN PEOPLE MIGHT THINK OF FOOD GIANTS, THEIR IMMEDIATE THOUGHT IS FAST FOOD STORES THAT SEEM TO BE EVERYWHERE.

BUT FOOD GIANTS IS A LOT LARGER THAN WE'RE THINKING.

I'VE COME TO CALL THE STUFF IN THE GROCERY STORE I WRITE ON, FAST GROCERIES.

THAT'S PROBABLY 70% OR 80% OF THE THINGS FOUND IN THE GROCERY STORE, UNLIKE, SAY, THE PRODUCE AISLE.

YOU'VE SEEN THIS INVASION OF FAST FOOD IN THE ATTITUDE AND FORMULATIONS AND THE MARKETING OF GROCERY PRODUCTS.

WE STILL LIKE TO THINK ARE GOOD FOR US, BUT BASICALLY THERE'S TEN LARGE CORPORATIONS WORKING DAY AND NIGHT TO DO EVERYTHING THEY CAN USING PSYCHOLOGY AND FORMULATIONS AND MARKETING TO GET US TO NOT JUST LIKE THEIR PRODUCTS BUT WANT MORE AND MORE OF THEM, AND THAT'S WHAT WE'RE UP AGAINST.

AND NOT ONLY THAT, BUT TURNING AROUND AND SORT OF BLAMING US WENT WE LOSE CONTROL.

AND ONE OF THE SHOCKING THINGS I FOUND IN MY RECENT RESEARCH WAS NONE OTHER THAN THE PROCESSED FOOD INDUSTRY GAINED CONTROL, TOOK CONTROL OF THE DIETING INDUSTRY.

SO ON THE ONE HAND THEY'RE MIKING PRODUCTS THAT MAKE US OVERWEIGHT.

ON THE OTHER HAND THEY'RE SAYING HERE, JUST USE THIS SCHEME OR PRODUCT AND YOU CAN HAVE MORE WILLPOWER.

AND IT'S NOT ABOUT US.

IT'S NOT ABOUT WILLPOWER.

IT'S ABOUT THE COMPANIES DESIGNING PRODUCTS IN A WAY THAT COMPLETELY DESTROY OUR ABILITY TO SAY NO.

SPEAKING OF PRODUCTS THAT ARE DESIGN IN THE A WAY -- INABILITY TO SAY NO, I BELIEVE THERE'S BEEN RESEARCH, AND CORRECT ME IF I'M WRONG, ON JUST THE PRODUCT PLACEMENT.

IF YOU GO GROCERY SHOPPING AND YOU HAVE A SMALL CHILD, THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS THAT ARE PLACED IN THEIR SIGHT LINE TO BASICALLY START A SCENE IN THE GROCERY STORE.

YEAH, YEAH, THE GROCERY STORE HAVE DONE DEVICES WHERE THEY PUT DEVICES ON PEOPLE'S HEADS AND MEASURE EYE MOVEMENTS.

THEY KNOW WHEN WE WALK IN THE CEREAL AISLE WE'LL GO DIRECTLY TO THE CENTER AISLE.

IF YOU NOTICE, IF YOU'RE SHOPPING FOR PLAIN OATMEAL IT'S GOING TO BE AT THE END OF THE AISLE DOWN ON THE FLOOR, AND ALL THE SUGARY VERSIONS -- 200 SUGARY VERSIONS OF STARCH THAT ARE THE BIGGEST SELLERS ARE GOING TO BE IN THE SAME AISLE.

THE MOMENT YOU WALK INTO A STORE, THEY'RE USING DEEP PSYCHOLOGY.

PSYCHOLOGY TO SHAPE OUR BUYING HABITS, TRYING TO SORT OF GET US OFF OUR SHOPPING LIST AND ACT IMPULSIVELY, AND THEY'RE REALLY, REALLY GOOD AT THAT.

WHAT ABOUT ALSO, BECAUSE YOU MENTIONED THE DIET INDUSTRY AND HOW A LOT OF THE BIG FOOD COMPANIES HAVE DO HAVE AN EFFECT ON THAT OR A HAND IN THAT, BUT ALSO AT THE SAME TIME THERE'S A LOT OF SO-CALLED HEALTHY VERSIONS OF FOOD OR ORGANIC FOOD YOU CAN BUY THAT ARE STILL PRODUCED BY THESE SAME LARGE COMPANIES.

THAT'S A REALLY GOOD POINT.

ONE OF THE THINGS IT DID WAS TO MOVE THROUGHOUT THE GROCERY STORE CREATING 'DIET' VERSIONS OF THEIR PRODUCT TO HAVE SLIGHTLY LESS TOTAL CALORIES THAN THE FULL VERSION.

BUT IT'S SITTING ON THE SHELF RIGHT NEXT TO THE FULL VERSION.

THEY'RE PUTTING THE ONUS ON US.

WE'RE SUPPOSED TO STAND THERE AND GO, HOW AM I FEELING THIS WEEK?

WILL I BUY THE FULL VERSION OR DIET VERSION?

AND IN THE END IT'S ALL MONEY AND PROFIT FOR THE COMPANIES.

IN THE END WHEN IT COMES TO THE HUMAN BODY, THOUGH, IS IT CALORIES OR SUGAR THAT'S MORE DETRIMENTAL TO OUR HEALTH?

I'M KIND OF AGNOSTIC ON THAT.

I THINK THAT ONE OF THE BIGGEST SIGNS OF A PRODUCT IN THE GROCERY STORE THAT MAY NOT BE THE BEST THING TO BUY IS CONVENIENCE, BECAUSE ONE OF THE HALLMARKS OF, LIKE, ADDICTIVE SUBSTANCES THAT CAUSES THAT IS SPEED.

THE FASTER THEY ARE, IS MORE APT WE ARE TO CONSUME, EVEN THOUGH WE KNOW WE SHOULDN'T.

AND EVERYTHING ABOUT THE PROCESSED FOOD INDUSTRY IS DESIGNED TO MAKE PRODUCTS THAT ARE SUPER FAST.

THE MANUFACTURING, THE PACKAGING, SO YOU CAN GET YOUR PAW IN THERE AND SCOOP OUT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.

AND OF COURSE THE SPEED WITH WHICH THE INGREDIENTS, AS WE MENTIONED, ZAP THAT REWARD CENTER OF THE BRAIN.

SO THAT'S THE WAY I HAVE BEEN LOOK AT PROCESSED FOOD LATELY IS NOT THE INDIVIDUAL NUTRITIONAL COMPONENTS LIKE SUGAR, FAT, OR SALT, BUT THAT OVERALL ABILITY OF THEIRS TO KNOCK US OFF OUR GAME AND GET US TO ACT COMPULSIVELY.

AND I THINK THE ANTI-DOTE FOR THAT IS LOOKING FOR WAYS TO SLOW DOWN.

THAT SEEMS LIKE IT MIGHT BE A SOCIETAL ISSUE, BECAUSE A PART OF WHY A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE LOOKING FOR FAST FOOD IS THEIR SCHEDULES ARE SO TIGHT BETWEEN WORK AND COMMUTING AND KIDS, BUT THAT'S A DIFFERENT CONVERSATION.

ABOUT THE PENDULUM SWINGING IN THE OTHER WAY.

WE ONLY HAVE A FEW -- ABOUT A MINUTE LEFT.

BUT THE CLEAN FOOD MOVEMENT SEEMS TO BE A REACTION TO SO MUCH SUGAR AND SO MANY PROCESSED FOODS.

I'M REALLY CAUTIOUS WHEN I TALK TO SCHOOL GROUPS, KIDSING RIGHT?

BECAUSE I DON'T WANT TO SCARE THEM TOO MUCH.

BECAUSE ONE OF THE REACTIONS IS TO FLIP THE OTHER WAY AND GET SO WORRIED ABOUT EVERYTHING YOU EAT THAT YOU GO CRAZY WITH IT, AND THAT CAN BE TOTALLY DETRIMENTAL TO KIDS.

THE CLEAN FOOD MOVEMENT I SEE BEING THIS PENDULUM SWING, AND WE'RE JUST HOPING AND PRAYING WE CAN GO BACK TO A TIME OR GO FORWARD TO A TIME WHERE WE CAN JUST, LIKE, SIT DOWN WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS AND ENJOY FOOD FOR WHAT IT IS WITHOUT HAVING TO WORRY ABOUT ALL THE NEGATIVES AND THE THINGS IT MAY DO TO US WE DON'T WANT TO HAVE HAPPEN, AND THAT'S WHAT I CERTAINLY WISH FOR.

ALL RIGHT, WELL, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO LEAVE THE CONVERSATION THERE, BUT MICHAEL MOSS, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

OF COURSE YOUR CRITICALLY ACRIMED BOOK 'HOOKED, FREE WILL, AND HOW THE FOOD GIANTS EXPLOIT OUR ADDICTIONS'. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US AND TALKING ABOUT THE EFFECT OF FOOD ON ALL OF US.

I'M ACTUALLY THINKING ABOUT EATING RIGHT NOW, SO THAT'S INDICATIVE OF YOUR WHOLE STORY.

GREAT TO TALK TO YOU.

HAPPY COOKING, BY THE WAY.

THANK YOU.

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