Is industry responsible for consumer actions?

Issues of childhood obesity, a diabetes epidemic, and low access to healthy food have been hot topics in debate recently. Who is responsible for this? If the industry creates the desire for a product, such as junk food, is the industry responsible for what happens when people try to satisfy that desire?

I would argue that the industry is not responsible, it is ultimately the responsibility of the consumer. It is the consumer who eats the food, not the industry.

I have been touching on this issue multiple times in the past couple of months. Consumers must have a certain level of literacy when it comes to food media, and again, it is not the industry’s fault if the consumer does not have a high level of food media literacy, even though the industry uses low levels of literacy to their benefit.

If you indulge in a chocolate cupcake, maybe because you saw a commercial or magazine ad, do you blame the media? No, you blame yourself of course. Consumers know that they are to blame, and while some would argue that the industry primes ‘consumerism’ at a young age, is it then not up to the ‘consumerist parents’ to monitor what their children watch?

A study done by Jennifer L. Harris, John A. Bargh, and Kelly D. Brownell found priming effects of television food advertisements on eating behavior. The study tested adults and children’s eating habits after exposed to multiple television food ads.  The study found that both adults and children eat more when exposed to television ads. Claiming that the advertising industry may be responsible for obesity rates. While I support the evidence the study found, I think they may have made hasty conclusions. I still believe that this puts the responsibility in consumer’s hands and not the industry. Some ways to not eat in front of the TV is to simply not keep food in reach! The industry’s goal is for to have their audience consume. But just because they place an ad in front of you, does not mean that you have to give in to that desire.

Take a look at this video of food authors Michael Pollan and Michael Moss (both who believe the consumer must be responsible in today’s food market) about navigating your way through the supermarket. They talk about many of the food industry’s ploys, how to recognize them, and avoid them!

What’s your take on this debate? Is it the consumer’s or industry’s responsibility?

NP 5/7


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