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How the Public Is Using the Internet to Score Major Victories Against Corporate Food Giants

Customers use online petition tools and win.
 
 
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It used to be if you had a problem with your food, you’d grab a pen and pencil. Today customers have turned to online petitioning tools to drive complaints especially when it comes to their food.

“Three of the top seven most popular petitions of all time on Change.org are about animal welfare in meat production, and more than two dozen food-related petitions have each earned tens of thousands of signatures, many of them hundreds of thousands,” reports Helena Bottermiller Evich in Politco.

Bettina Siegel, a former corporate lawyer and blogger on The Lunch Tray, asked the USDA to stop serving “pink slime” to children. Her campaign gathered nearly a quarter million signatures, a frenzy of media coverage, and more than 250,000 signatures later, the USDA announced schools had a choice and could stop serving beef with the LFTB filler better known in the industry as “lean finely textured beef.”

Chipotle, with its slogan of “food with integrity,” has been petitioned to treat their workers with integrity to stop using bacon in their pinto beans, none of which were entirely successful. But they gave in to complaints from Vani Hari, the popular "Food Babe" blogger, when she petitioned the company to list their ingredients containing GMOs.

Hari recently won over Anheuser-Busch and Miller Coors when she petitioned them to list their ingredients in their beers, something the Center for Science in the Public Interest had lobbied to do for three decades.

Sarah Kavanagh created an online  campaign to take out the “crazy chemical BVO” out of Coca-Cola’s Powerade. Kavanagh cited a Scientific American article that reported nearly 10 percent of sodas in the United States contain this “little-known ingredient” that has been used as a stabilizer for flavoring oils and has also been used in flame-retardants. The FDA already “limits the use of BVO to 15 parted per million in fruit-flavored beverages” after studies of its use found no health risks in very low doses.

Earlier, Kavanagh campaigned PepsiCo. to remove BVO from their Gatorade and after 200,000 signatures, they complied. It took Kavanaugh a little over 59,000 signatures before Powerade agreed to drop the ingredient.

With so many campaigns circulating it’s no shock that companies have been watching. According to Evich, companies have created sophisticated “listening” tools that can monitor their brand closely and make sure they don’t end up as the next pink slime.

Clarissa A. Leon is AlterNet's food editor. She formerly served as an investigative research assistant at The Daily Beast and The Nation Institute. 

 
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