Is It Our Fault If We Get Addicted To Junk Food?

Junk food is designed to beaddictive, as New York Times reporter Michael Moss reveals in his forthcoming book, “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.” Anexcerpt offers more than you may want to know about how food manufacturers create their products with every bit as much care as a medieval alchemist seeking the magic elixir.

Companies carry out extensive testing to get just that right “mouthfeel.” Focus groups are key; one composed of harried working moms played a part in inspiring Lunchables, the plastic trays packed with processed foods whose packaging says it’s the perfect lunch solution for kids. Millions of dollars are spent on perfecting Cheeto-like creations with”vanish caloric density,” an industry term for the “uncanny ability” of the orange puffs to melt in the mouth and so quickly that your brain is tricked into thinking they have zero calories. If all else fails and a product doesn’t sell, the cardinal rule is: add more sugar.

Quoting from industry officials (including the CEO of General Mills, Stephen Sanger), Moss makes clear that their general philosophy/business plan is “consumers don’t want to hear about nutrition; if you make it taste good, they will buy, buy and buy.”

Is It Our Fault We Get Hooked on Junk Food?

With more than one-third of adults in America and about 17 percent of childrenobese, public health officials have not hesitated to connectobesity rates to the mountains of junk food they make and people consume.

But while some see a clear link, others counter that people have choices about what they choose to buy in stores and what they eat and feed their children. We’re constantly told that junk food is a one-way ticket to the full panoply of modern civilization’s health woes (diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease); stuffed with sugar, salt and all things processed; cleverly, temptingly packaged. If you eat fattening junk food and you gain weight, it’s your fault, some say.

Moss’sinvestigation suggests something more insidious, that the likes of General Mills and Frito Lay are going out of their way to create foods that consumers get hooked on. Interviews with scientists and executives who used to work for the food companies reveal them to be full of regret for bringing Lunchables, Doritos and the like into kitchen cabinets and potentially creating massive health problems.

The Real Fight Is Against Unhealthy Food

Talking about an “obesity epidemic” puts the blame on people for their health problems,Jill Filipovic writes in the Guardian. The real fight, she says, is against unhealthy food and, by extension, those who manufacturer it. Pointing fingers at those with unhealthy diets and lifestyles (as Barbara Walters did in aDecember interview with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie) achieves nothing.

Of course people make choices about what they eat, but when we look at issues such as access to healthy food, it becomes clear that not everyone has as much “choice” about their food as we might think. Filopovic argues that we need to make changes such as “humane work policies” so people end up with time to prepare and eat a real, healthy meal instead of snacks from a box.

Even more, healthy food must not only be more accessible but affordable, so that a 99 cents bag of crispy things isn’t the cheapest option. Moss’ research more than makes clear that Big Food does not have our best (health) interests in mind; accordingly we need to, as Filopovic writes, “push back against big food companies and question their outsized influence in Washington and in our daily lives.”

Do you think it’s an exaggeration to say that we can become as addicted to junk food as drugs? Should Big Food take some responsibility in creating a legion of health problems from diabetes to high blood pressure?

Related Care2 Coverage:

Are “Healthy” Fast-Food Meals for Kids Really Healthy?

Who Does Coca-Cola Think It’s Fooling?

Sugar Is Safe” Says the Sugar Industry


Photo from Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

John De Avalon
John De Avalon4 years ago

No-one forces you to buy it - or eat it! So yes it is your fault if you get addicted to junk food!

Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Leslie R.
Leslie R4 years ago

I make a point to eat real food including regular juicing but I love my Sour Cream and Onion Potato Chips. If I have not eaten much can easily fall for a craving to eat a bag of chips. This does not happen often but I can see how people who are less mindful get caught in this trap. People need to work for more conscious eating and that includes more eating human, cruelty-free food.

Jean W.
Jean W4 years ago

At my workplace we offer a class called "Cooking Matters" where our clients learn the ingredients, the cooking and preparation processes, and the end product - a delicious meal for the family - they are then given the ingredients to recreate this meal at home. I am thrilled with this program, as many of the families I work with have never had the cooking lessons or examples that might help them to prepare meals for the family. I grew up knowing how to cook, and 'junk food' was rarely available. These families grew up on fast food. They really want to make better choices for their children, but they need to be taught how to do it.

My rule of thumb - if I can't pronounce it, or I don't know where it was grown - I try not to buy it or eat it.

Jeannie F.

We need to be accountable for what we put into our mouths and our children's mouths. Sure, with great marketing, advertising and lobbying it's easy to make these foods tempting but, no one is forcing us to eat this stuff. However, we should be looking at the bigger picture. Healthy and fresh foods are not affordable nor widely accessible and something is seriously wrong with that. This, coupled with the lack of widespread education about healthy eating and healthy living - particularly for those who are both socially and economically disadvantaged - is alarming. For these individuals and families, they make bad food decisions because they don't know any better and/or they can't afford to eat healthy. What's even more disturbing are those individuals and families who are knowledgeable about healthy eating are now forced to make bad food decisions because of they have been severely affected by job loss and the economic downturn. They're now faced with having to put food on the table over the quality of the food. When food manufacturers make big profits on junk/fast foods and making them more widely available and affordable than fresh fruits and vegetables, that doesn't sit well with me.

Just my two cents (okay, two dollars...)

Connie O.
Connie O4 years ago

thank you

Karl Murphy
Karl Murphy4 years ago

Of course its your fault if you are addicted to junk food. Just because something is made to be addictive (like crack), doesn't mean its not your fault if you get addicted to it. People are feeling less and less accountable for their actions these days, they always want to blame someone or something else for their shortcomings.
A admit that the US doesn't give us many healthy food options, but that is simply a result of supply and demand.... the US consume wants junk, so that's what we get. Until we start wanting healthier food options, we are going to continue to get this processed junk that makes us crave more and more.

KAREN L4 years ago

If a family eats proper fresh food most of the time, the idea of getting addicted to junk food is less likely.
When I visited Qatar a few years back, I was appalled to see young children spending the bulk of their time in fast food restaurants. Their parents had grown up with very little food at all and the new generation has moved over to junk food....that's also called globalisation but in a deadly form.

Traci Phillips
Traci Phillips4 years ago

There sare some things to take into consideration: For those on a tight budget, healthy food isn't always easy to come by, and health food stores are VERY pricey. The government needs to be reformed about what they are doing, in terms of health, and find a way to make healthy food affordable, remove chemicals and toxins from our food sources and provide us with 100% healthy options.