A few weeks ago, I wrote about a campaign from Change.org that aimed to get Kraft to take artificial food dyes out of its products, something it already does in Europe, where consumers have pressured companies like Kraft to keep the controversial dyes out of foods.
Now comes a report in The New York Times that McDonald’s has “reached a deal under which a nonprofit organization would certify as sustainable the catch used for each of the 100 million fish sandwiches the chain sells in Europe every year.” Do you know why McDonald's is doing this Europe? The restaurant is making the change because it has been “faced with persistent criticism from environmentalists who accuse it of destructive practices.” It seems the McDonald’s also serves Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee and uses sustainable agriculture programs in Europe for the same reason.
The company doesn’t feel the need to do the same in America, although The New York Times reported that McDonald's is having “some conversations” about doing the same here. Why do I get the feeling that those “some conversations” consist of, “Why spend the money in the United States for sustainable fish if no one is complaining?” That’s a conversation, right?
But this post really isn’t about McDonald’s. It’s about what Americans could accomplish if we got persistent and loud enough. That petition that Change.org has organized asking Kraft to make changes to food dyes received only 2,958 signatures. Less than 3,000 people asked Kraft to make a change. That’s a whisper that Kraft is never going to hear.
Look at what happened when Jamie Oliver got vocal about flavored milks in the Los Angeles school district. He brought enough attention and publicity to the problem that the new superintendent is asking the school board to eliminate the over-sugary beverages. Jamie Oliver isn’t going to fight all our battles for us, but we can use his victory — and the victories that the European consumers have had — as inspiration.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has recently acknowledged that more research needs to be done on the safety of artificial food dyes. That’s the first step in a positive direction, but with the way government bureaucracy works and the influence that big food lobbyists have, it could be more than a decade before we see any legislation — if we see any at all.
We can’t wait for the government to make these changes, nor do we have to. If we just get persistent and vocal enough, food companies will make the changes without the government forcing them to. If enough of us speak out, sign petitions, write individual letters and vote with our dollars, we can get changes made.
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