Why Americans Need To Be More Active Consumers

We grew up in America, a place that trusts the advertisements that tell us what we are eating, drinking, and putting on our bodies is safe and good for us. We never second guess or doubt these statements that are engrained into our heads, because we assume that the information given to us is accurate and reliable. However, we as consumers seem to forget that the information stems from a capitalist market that profits off of the consumers assumptions and lack of questioning the facts. We as Americans need to start taking an active role in what we are consuming, and we can no longer just believe that what we are ingesting and putting on our bodies is safe. Although it is a sad reality that the government has created a system of vagueness and unreliability within it’s regulators, we must recognize this frustrating truth, and use our ability to fact check, to question, and to demand the facts about the products being sold and marketed to us.

What is marketed to the consumer now a days is simply not what it says it is. And it appears that the FDA is no where to be found, letting unsafe and unhealthy products that are marketed as supposedly being super healthy, organic, or green slip through the cracks of regulation and on to the shelves of our local grocery stores.  In mid November 2015, a law suit against General Mills Protein Cheerios made headlines on local news stations when it was found out that their so called ‘Cheerios Protein’ holds a meager 4 grams more protein than regular Cheerios. What is even more astonishing is that it holds 17 grams of sugar per serving, where as regular Cheerios has only 1 gram. General Mills Marketed their new Protein Cheerios with this slogan, “Fuel your family’s breakfast with new Cheerios Protein. Providing 11g or protein with milk, Cheerios Protein gives you long-lasting energy with a taste your whole family will love. The toasted whole grain O’s, combined with crunchy oat granola clusters and real honey come together in delicious harmony in two great flavors: Oats & Honey and Cinnamon Almond.” While this may sound appealing to the unquestioning consumer, taking a look inside reveals that this is a sugar filled unhealthy cereal, that is being marketed as a healthier option to the actually healthier option. IN response to the lawsuit General Mills completely disregarded the facts that they are serving sugar filled junk to the public under the guise of a protein filled product, and instead stated,“Cheerios Protein contains 7 grams of protein per serving — and it does qualify as a good source of high-quality protein under the FDA standard. Cheerios Protein provides a good source of protein in every labeled serving-and it is accurately labeled.” Maybe the real problem lies in the FDA’s leniency on the company ability to label and market their products inaccurately, instead of the company’s natural desire to market false products to a public that will believe anything they say.

Not only does the U.S. have false marketing and lack of regulation in the food industry, but we have it in the beauty industry as well. Although it has hard to actually say this, the FDA surprisingly does more to regulate food in America than it does the cosmetic industry. We all may think that this is a necessary balance of priorities considering food is something we ingest while makeup and self care products like deodorant and shampoo  are something we put on our bodies, the inaccuracy of that statement shows just how little we know about our own bodies and the products we put on them. Our skin is the largest organ of our body, and it absorbs about 64% of what you put on it. Wether you’re dousing your under arms with aluminum flooded deodorant, or applying paragon and preservative infused face lotion, these products we think stay on the surface actually absorb into our bodies and bloodstreams. For example, as Tracy Ternes on her website Down to Earth.Org, mainstream products such as Vaseline Intensive Care Dry Skin Lotion contains a slue of synthetic ingredients such as, “Ingredients from packaging: ACTIVE INGREDIENT: ETHYLHEXYL P-METHOXYCINNAMATE (SPF 5). OTHER INGREDIENTS: WATER, GLYCERIN, STEARIC ACID, GLYCOL STEARATE, SUNFLOWER SEED OIL, SOYA STEROL, LECITHIN, TOCOPHERYL ACETATE, RETINYL PALMITATE, DIMETHICONE, GLYCERYL STEARATE, CETYL ALCOHOL, TEA, MAGNESIUM ALUMINUM SILICATE, FRAGRANCE, CARBOMER, STEARAMIDE AMP, CORN OIL, METHYLPARABEN, DMDM HYDANTOIN, IODOPROPYNYL BUTYLCARBAMATE, DISODIUM EDTA, PG, BHT, TITANIUM DIOXIDE, YELLOW NO. 10.”. These dies, fragrances, and unpronounceable chemicals all pollute our bodies, leaving toxins in our bloodstreams.

The reality that our skin is an organ that absorbs the things we put on it is just coming to the surface of mainstream society’s consciousness, yet, the major companies that were profiting from using synthetic toxic ingredients are changing their game plan by using the ‘green and organic’ branding scheme to their advantage. Critics say that the cosmetic industry is again marketing falsely this time through something called ‘Greenwashing’. They are purposely misleading consumers to buy their product, under the guise that their shampoo or their makeup is healthier than the basic brands. What this does though, is deceives consumers about the ingredients within the product, and masks it in an eco friendly bottle. The problem, as pointed out by Kristen Arnett, is that the industry has, “unregulated uses of words like “natural” and “organic”, making for a plethora of natural products that are simply not natural at all. Brands pose as being eco friendly, and so the consumer believes this to be healthier for them, all the while the companies profit off of their assumptions, and the consumer floods their body with toxins. When a consumer reads labels from companies that build their brand around being healthy and eco friendly, such as, “fresh” and “natural”, what else are they to believe? But, when one dives in deeper to the actual ingredients in these products, one can see fragrances, one of the most deceiving chemicals used by companies as fillers for their products, as well as parabens and preservatives. It’s simply immoral to market products falsely, and again the problem lies with the lack of regulation on the industry as a whole, but also with the marketing itself. It’s really simple, if a company is not natural, fresh, or organic, then it should not legally be allowed to say it is.

The E.U. has banned U.S. meats, and has completely banned 1,110 chemicals in the cosmetic industry. The United States has banned ten. We are fed mainstream products, from food to mascara, and the companies that control the markets expect that we as consumers will not question the ingredients being force fed to us. One of the most disturbing facts I found in my search about the truth of the beauty industry is that, “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration places no restrictions on the use of formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing ingredients in cosmetics or personal care products. Yet formaldehyde-releasing agents are banned from these products in Japan and Sweden while their levels — and that of formaldehyde — are limited elsewhere in Europe.” To know that products I have put on my body have a chemical that strong and toxic, just terrifies me. We do not know what these chemicals do to our bodies, but some studies have linked parabens back to causing early breast cancer in women. The fact that we have only banned 10 of the 1,110 that the E.U. has highlights the lack of regulation in our country, which links back to the capitalist state of mind our leaders have. Rather than protect the safety and health of our citizens, leading companies and regulating systems are given and allow free reign over marketing of products as well as ingredients within products, with no regard for health of the consumer. As blogger Lyndsey Dahl points out, “As you may have gathered thus far, under the 1938 Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, cosmetics companies are self-regulating. It is up to the company to decide if their products are safe, and then we as consumers of these products are left exposed to several harmful ingredients in the products we use on our skin everyday. The industry has been running wild, unregulated and still use many harmful chemicals.” It is up to the consumer to navigate this mine field of a market with an active and informed mind, in order to shift the market from companies being allowed to use harmful ingredients, to forcing them to use safe and non-toxic ingredients.

 

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4 thoughts on “Why Americans Need To Be More Active Consumers”

  1. You touch on this briefly in your post, but I definitely think that the onus is not on consumers to seek out information, but on the government to enforce more stringent regulations on advertising. Many people don’t have the time, wherewithal, or intelligence to decipher advertised psuedonutritious “facts” and will fall prey to corporations’ deceit without the aid of regulation.

    Furthermore, I think there is a contingent of society that doesn’t necessarily think that the things they ingest are healthy; they just don’t really care. Perhaps if they were better educated they would. But for many, particularly the impoverished, who don’t have the luxury of seeking out healthy options and questioning the information with which they are provided, cost will trump all, and without further regulations, this will likely continually result in poor health decisions.

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  2. I am so, so glad you brought up the dilemma regarding cosmetic products in this country. While the food industry has its own set of regulation issues, I think the consumer is much more weary about what they ingest and therefore are more stringent. But people seem to disregard completely what we put on our skin. Most major brands of sunscreen, for example, have a slew of chemicals that should make you think twice about buying them. You shouldn’t have to risk one form of cancer just to battle another. I think we can learn a lot from EU regulations, but it hasn’t seem to hit the mark in the states yet.

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  3. It’s kind of scary to know that we all use makeup and cosmetics so carelessly, without paying attention to the potential health consequences. I don’t know too much about the science of it, but I’ve spoken with friends about the dangers of makeup and how certain brands include more toxic chemicals than others. We usually choose our brands based on their colors, quality, etc. but very rarely do we pay attention to the health hazards posed by our lipsticks and eyeliners. I think this can be owed to the little attention the industry draws to this issue; we rarely think of health concerns regarding deodorants because the narrative isn’t there. This is one of those situations where awareness really is a solution – at least to the direction of the industry.

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  4. I was shocked to read about how lax the regulations are in the cosmetics industry. I think the advent of the Internet poses even more pressing issues in regard to harmful products that are available for consumers to purchase. Many people order beauty products from international vendors online, and these products are often completely unregulated by the US government. While some of the responsibility must be on the consumer in these situations, it seems reasonable that the government should take a more active role in informing Americans about what chemicals and products are unsafe. While I do think food safety remains a more pressing issue, and that the FDA needs to take immediate steps to improve their regulatory food practices, I agree with you that cosmetics are also a major area lacking in regulations in the US.

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