Tuesday, January 25, 2011

walmart cares...but not about you.

walmart wants you to know, it cares.

it wants you to believe it cares about you, dear customer, and your family and your high cholesterol and the cardiovascular disease steadily, stealthily wrapping its cold fingers around your heart.

important note: walmart doesn't care about any of those things. what it cares about is that you keep buying the cheap, sweatshop-made, environmentally rapacious products that pump up its bottom line.

"Walmart is getting on Michelle Obama's bandwagon, announcing Thursday that it will start selling healthier foods.

"The four-year plan, which company officials announced in Washington with the First Lady, includes reducing salt and sugar as well as eliminating trans fats in packaged foods. Officials for the world's largest retail chain also plan to cut the prices of fresh fruits and vegetables — and will build stores in low-income neighborhoods where consumers have few choices to buy food beyond gas stations and convenience stores."

according to a 1994 article in the american journal of public health, trans fats cause 30,000 deaths a year from heart disease. and we've known since 1988 that trans fats are correlated with a "...large increase in coronary artery disease."

meanwhile, according to the la times, "Walmart has more than 140 million customer visits each week." which means over the years the company that cares has pumped its toxic products into billions and billions of its customers' arteries.

"In outlining the changes, officials said they plan to reformulate thousands of packaged foods by 2015. Their goals include reducing sodium by 25 percent and added sugars by 10 percent, and removing all remaining industrially produced trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils."

the information that trans fats kill people has been around for a generation. why did walmart wait so long to care about its customers, one might reasonably ask. is it because they just recently heard the trans fat news, or is it something else? tsk, silly questions!

what's most likely is that the friendly, caring, concerned walmart team recently decided they could make a different kind of killing by tinkering with their product mix, with the expectation of reaping ridiculous profits whilst still ridding the country of its small businesses. and if their little experiment doesn’t meet ROI expectations, it can die, quick and quiet. genius!

"In Washington, consumer advocates praised the news. 'I applaud Walmart for using its marketplace muscle to move the food industry in a healthier direction,' said Michael Jacobsen, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

"'This announcement will virtually eliminate artificial trans fat in packaged foods and help spur food manufacturers to cut the sodium in their products over the next several years,' he added. 'Those two moves by Walmart ultimately should save thousands of lives each year that might otherwise be lost to heart disease or stroke.'"

excuse me, michael, but isn't this a bit like praising the gila monster in the chicken coop for passing up the high-cholesterol eggs?

sure the chickens are all dead, but the risk of heart disease is greatly reduced. yay, gila monster!

and by the way, michael, doesn't walmart sell cigarettes and other tobacco products? yes, yes it does. and isn't it true that cigarettes kill 400,000 americans every year? yes, yes it is. just sayin', mister walmart cheerleader.

the funny thing is, even if walmart makes available every manner of lowfat, low sodium, high omega-3 option and alternative, many of the store's clientele will take one look at the healthful array and say, "uh, no. none of that organic stuff for me and my family. that's for elitists and socialists and french-speakers. we like head cheese. pork rinds. gahddam beef byproducts! that's what's for dinner at our house!"

butbutbut...isn't it a good thing that walmart is offering healthier products, no matter how cynical and self-serving its motivations might be? sort of. if manufacturers can be pummeled into incremental product improvements by the threat of walmart's economic hammer, great. if, as a result, millions of walmart customers improve their unhealthy diets the tiniest bit, better still.

but if it's just another way for the company that doesn't really care to increase its clout--enabling it to continue its ravening, unethical, inhumane business practices--that's not so good.

clever PR campaigns and facile solutions to real problems are no reason to get all warm and snuggly with the corporate lizard.

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