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new pyramid - ill-conceived redesign
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2005 3:28 pm    Post subject: new pyramid - ill-conceived redesign Reply with quote


Pyramid selling

Apr 28th 2005
From The Economist print edition

Rebranding America's diet

TRYING to get Americans to eat a healthy diet is a frustrating
business. Even the best-designed public-health campaigns cannot seem to
compete with the tempting flavours of the snack-food and fast-food
industries and their fat- and sugar-laden products. The results are
apparent on a walk down any American street-more than 60% of
Americans are overweight, and a full quarter of them are overweight to
the point of obesity.

Now, health advocates say, an ill-conceived redesign has taken one of
the more successful public-health campaigns-the Food Guide
Pyramid-and rendered it confusing to the point of uselessness. Some
of these critics worry that America's Department of Agriculture caved
in to pressure from parts of the food industry anxious to protect their

The Food Guide Pyramid was a graphic which emphasises that a healthy
diet is built on a base of grains, vegetables and fruits, followed by
ever-decreasing amounts of dairy products, meat, sweets and oils. The
agriculture department launched the pyramid in 1992 to replace its
previous programme, which was centred on the idea of four basic food
groups. The "Basic Four" campaign showed a plate divided into
quarters, and seemed to imply that meat and dairy products should make
up half of a healthy diet, with grains, fruits and vegetables making up
the other half. It was replaced only over the strenuous objections of
the meat and dairy industries.

United States


Food and drink

MyPyramid.gov, created by the Department of Agriculture, explains the
new US food pyramid and publishes the "Dietary Guidelines for
Americans 2005". Wikipedia provides information and links about the
1992 food guide pyramid. See also the Potato Board, the Almond Board of
California, the Sugar Association, the National Food Processors
Association, the National Watermelon Promotion Board and the California
Avocado Commission.

The old pyramid was undoubtedly imperfect. It failed to distinguish
between a doughnut and a whole-grain roll, or a hamburger and a
skinless chicken breast, and it did not make clear exactly how much of
each foodstuff to eat. It did, however, manage to convey the basic idea
of proper proportions in an easily understandable way. The new pyramid,
called "My Pyramid", abandons the effort to provide this
information. Instead, it has been simplified to a mere logo. The food
groups are replaced with unlabelled, multi-coloured vertical stripes
which, in some versions, rise out of a cartoon jumble of foods that
look like the aftermath of a riot at a grocery store. Anyone who wants
to see how this translates into a healthy diet is invited to go to a
website, put in their age, sex and activity level, and get a
custom-designed pyramid, complete with healthy food choices and
suggested portion sizes. This is fine for those who are motivated, but
might prove too much effort for those who most need such information.

Admittedly, the designers of the new pyramid had a tough job to do.
They were supposed to condense the advice in the 84-page United States'
Dietary Guidelines into a simple, meaningful graphic suitable for
printing on the back of a cereal box. And they had to do this in the
face of pressure from dozens of special interest groups-from the
country's Potato Board, which thought potatoes would look nice in the
picture, to the Almond Board of California, which felt the same way
about almonds. The Sugar Association did not want to see sucrose
bad-mouthed, and the National Food Processors Association thought
packaged foods should get more respect. Vegetarians wanted meat struck
off, and Atkins diet advocates suggested dumping the carbs. Even the
National Watermelon Promotion Board and the California Avocado
Commission were eager to see their products recognised.

Nevertheless, many health advocates believe the new graphic is a missed
opportunity. Although officials insist industry pressure had nothing to
do with the eventual design, some critics suspect that political
influence was at work. On the other hand, it is not clear how much good
even the best graphic could do. Surveys found that 80% of Americans
recognised the old Food Guide Pyramid-a big success in the world of
public-health campaigns. Yet only 16% followed its advice


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