This week’s food politics round-up starts with an entertaining video. Coca-Cola’s famed polar bears were taken to task on Wednesday in an animated short that shows these soda-guzzling bears plagued by diabetes, amputation and even problems in the bedroom. Add an ironically peppy song by Jason Mraz and some shocking statistics and you’ve got a video that’s poised to go viral.
The “Real Bears” short, which was produced by the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) along with disillusioned ad man Alex Bogusky, is a direct satire of Big Soda advertisements, which equate drinking soda with a care-free lifestyle.
Bogusky, formerly an executive at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, has done advertising work for the fast food industry (clients include Burger King and Coca-Cola), but he’s also the man behind the anti-smoking “Truth” campaign. Two years ago, he left advertising to raise awareness for causes like global warming. In CSPI’s press release for the video, Bugosky says the video is needed to draw a distinction between soda as a sugary treat and soda as an everyday drink.
To get his point across, Bogusky shows the polar bears losing teeth, injecting insulin and facing a fox doctor who is prepared to amputate the father bear’s leg with a chain saw. In between scenes of the bears’ sugary demise, statistics about the link between soda consumption and diabetes, obesity and tooth decay are flashed on the screen.
While Bogusky calls the video a “cultural wake-up call,” Big Soda executives view it as misleading propaganda. Coca-Cola spokeswoman Susan Stribling told USA Today, “This is irresponsible and grandstanding and will not help anyone understand energy balance.”
And as long as the video remains on the internet only we suspect Big Soda will largely dismiss it with statements like Stribling’s. But, if the short gets airtime, like CSPI hopes it might, we anticipate a pro-soda media blitz from Coca-Cola and the likes. If they’re not too busy dealing with Bloomberg’s New York City “soda ban,” that is.
We close out this week’s round-up with a couple of must-reads for those who missed these widely circulated articles. The first is from acclaimed author Michael Pollan, who wonders in The New York Times if the food movement is finally ready to get political. Should Californians vote to pass Prop 37, which would require companies to label foods that include GMO ingredients, it would be a major blow to government-supported Big Agriculture. The other must-read is an exhaustively researched look at lapses in food safety from Bloomberg Markets magazine. Titled “Food Sickens Millions As Company-Paid Checks Find It Safe,” the lengthy story details some of the most horrific incidents of food-related illness and death, and chronicles how these mistakes were allowed to happen. Among the shocking numbers in the Bloomberg report: “Food sickens 48 million Americans a year, with 128,000 hospitalized and 3,000 killed.” Danger on your dinner plate, as the story’s graphic puts it, indeed.