The list of companies announcing changes to the foods they manufacture and retail is growing in response to consumer demand. Chipotle has nixed GMOs (well, at least partly). McDonald’s has announced it will strive to not source chicken treated with human antibiotics. Kraft is eliminating the coloring used in its iconic mac and cheese and Pepsi is ditching aspartame. GMOs. Antibiotics. Artificial food coloring. Artificial sweeteners. All good, right? But will these moves actually improve “public and environmental health?”

Undoubtedly, some of these things will be good for us individually and collectively. But some won’t matter much. As Nathanael Johnson (@SavorTooth) writes in Time, “it’s crucial to differentiate.”

Johnson hits the nail on the head here:

We tend to worry about the wrong things—Ebola, airplane crashes, and chemicals in food—while ignoring real dangers—car crashes, obesity, and climate change. Food companies capitalize on our risk blindness. It’s cheaper to make a superficial shift. As a Chipotle executive noted, the cost of eliminating GMOs was “de minimis.” Real change, like eliminating antibiotics, affects the bottom line. If consumers can’t differentiate between real and token changes, which do you think companies will choose?


An incredibly intelligent analysis. If you’re reading one thing today, this should be it.


Related links:

What Tyson’s big antibiotic announcement might really mean

Why some aren’t taking Chipotle’s GMO announcement seriously