Michele Simon

The Government-Industry Conspiracy that Promotes Crap Food in School

People often ask me, “How does lobbying work?” Last week it was with fat and sugar, when the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) hosted its 32nd annual Capitol Hill Ice Cream Party. Some 6,000 bowls of ice cream were served up to Sen. Tom Harkin, Reps. Pete Sessions, Robert Aderholt, Jeff Denham, John Shimkus, Ron Kind and Lamar Smith, among others, according to Politico.

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Follow the Honey: 7 Ways Pesticide Companies Are Spinning the Bee Crisis

If you like to eat, then you should care about what’s happening to bees. Did you know that two-thirds of our food crops require pollination — the very foods that we rely on for healthy eating — such as apples, berries and almonds, just to name a few. That’s why the serious declines in bee populations are getting more attention, with entire campaigns devoted to saving bees.

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Call It Pop Or Soda, But San Francisco's Coming for Big Soda With New Bill

This article originally appeared at Eat Drink Politics, and is reprinted here with their permisison.

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Junk Food Lobby Targeting State Capitals Across the Country to Prevent GMO Labeling

In secret documents that I uncovered in November, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (aka food industry lobbyists) laid out its five-point plan for opposing the labeling of foods containing genetically-modified organisms or GMOs. First on the list: “To oppose all state efforts that would impose mandatory labels” including state legislation. With more than 20 states having introduced state bills to require GMO labeling, the junk food lobby has its work cut out for it. But they’ve wasted no time as the 2014 legislative session gets underway, starting with targeting the New Hampshire capital.

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How McDonald’s Exploits Philanthropy and Targets Children

Pop quiz: Who do you think funds the hundreds of Ronald McDonald Houses around the nation? McDonald’s right? Sort of, but not really. While McDonald’s gets 100 percent of the brand benefit from Ronald McDonald House Charities, the burger giant only provides about 20 percent of its funding globally. At the local level, it’s closer to ten percent, with some of that money coming from donation boxes at McDonald’s outlets, that is, from customers.

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Junk Food Lobby Forced to Disclose Secret Donors in Campaign to Stop GMO Labeling

Just a few weeks ago, attorneys for the No on 522 campaign were feeling rather smug when a lawsuit filed against them by a group called “Moms for Labeling” was dismissed. As I wrote last week, consumer class action attorney Knoll Lowney sued the No on 522 and the Washington DC-based Grocery Manufactures Association (lobbyists for major food corporations) for not disclosing the donors behind GMA’s $7 million-plus donation to stop I-522, which would require genetically-engineered foods to be labeled. The judge threw out that case on a technicality.

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Junk Food Lobbyists Sued for Money Laundering in Washington State

In the final weeks leading up to Election Day, the debate over measure I-522 in Washington State is getting even uglier. As I recently explained, the Grocery Manufacturer Association, the nation’s largest trade group for the processed food industry, has been flexing its muscle to oppose the labeling of genetically-engineered food, both at the federal and state levels. Now, a lawsuit brought by a non-profit called “Moms for Labeling” alleges that GMA crossed the line by not properly disclosing who is behind the whopping $7 million-plus the trade group has donated to the No on 522 campaign so far.

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Death Of the Happy Meal

A few weeks ago, USA Today announced: "Taco Bell will shock the fast-food industry on Tuesday by announcing plans to drop kids meals and toys at all of its U.S. restaurants.” CEO Greg Creed told the paper: “The future of Taco Bell is not about kids meals. This is about positioning the brand for Millennials."

Some were skeptical about the announcement, given that kids' meals only represent half of one percent of Taco Bell's overall sales. While increasing pressure on the fast food industry to stop marketing to children wasn't the main reason for the change, it's still a significant development.

That a large fast food company thought it could gain a public relations boost by showing off what amounted to a failed business strategy is a sure sign of success by children’s health advocates. Restaurant executives have heard the message loud and clear: Marketing junk food to children is a scourge on their industry and any move that distances your company from such negative PR is a good thing.

The move also leaves McDonald’s increasingly isolated in its steadfast refusal to change its ways. Taco Bell is not in fact the first or only company to abandon children as a target market. In 2011, Jack in the Box announced it was pulling toys from its kids’ meals, explaining to Reuters: "Our advertising and promotions have focused exclusively on the frequent fast-food customer, not children."

And this recent article from NBC News describes how, as fast food “grows up,” more chains are retiring old-fashioned, child-oriented mascots and themes for a more modern marketing approach. The article cites childhood obesity concerns as playing “a significant role” in this decision making. Also, mascots such as Ronald McDonald just don’t fit the modern world, particularly as more upscale food chains gain popularity. The article explains:

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Why the Center for Science in the Public Interest Is Wrong Not to Support Genetically Engineered Food Labeling

You may have noticed the impressive grassroots movement gathering steam lately over the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods. Recently, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to enact a law to require such labels, and 26 other states have introduced similar bills this year. Millions of Americans are demanding more transparency in the food supply and our elected officials are finally responding, after decades of work by groups like Center for Food Safety (CFS). 

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Should We Be Calling on Industry to Market 'Healthy' Food to Children?

Last week at a childhood obesity conference, I participated in an important panel to discuss what has become a controversial strategy among some advocates for children’s health: calling on industry to market “healthy” food to children.

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