We recently learnt why celebrities and A-listers get on board with brands to endorse their products. And despite nutritionists and health experts arguing otherwise, the fancy star-studded soda and candy ads keep increasing at a steady rate. And even though we know the health hazards pegged to most of these foods, we still go running to the nearest supermarket the moment a celeb asks us to “open happiness”.
Sunita Narain, Director General of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said that Bollywood and sports icons endorsing cola brands creates “an addiction out of the product,” without warning consumers against the product’s ill effects. “What they are selling you is nothing but sugar and water. To their benefit, they have been successful in creating an addiction out of it. But, Dhoni will never take such drinks himself, then why promote?” she said.
Adding her two pence to the debate of celebrity endorsements, Narain argued that celebs endorsing the products in question should be discontinued across the globe. “Now what does he (the actor) know about labs or about nutrition, or for that matter pesticides?” she questioned. She admitted that the actor has now become “rather a good food proponent now.”
The discussion, which even addressed the kind of lucrative languages used by soda companies in order to make the product more saleable, also had on its panel veteran journalist Satya Sivaraman and food critic Sourish Bhattacharya.
“They have used the language making you believe that this is fashion, this is glamour and this is aspirational,” Narain said. She compared such advertisements with the “Marlboro Man phenomenon” that encouraged smoking, without noting that “the man died of lung cancer.”
Bhattacharya, on the other hand, was less extreme in his suggestion and proposed that instead of “banning” celebrities from endorsing food product, their popularity could be used to advocate healthier substitutes in this struggle between “good and bad.”
“Look at what (popular American chef) Alice Waters is doing. She has become the face of organic food movement all over the world. Same is the case with ‘Slow food movement’ founded by Carlos Petrini. We certainly can try the same here,” said an optimistic Bhattacharya.
The tussle between star studded campaigns and health and wellness authorities has been going on for ages. Whether it is a packet of 2-minute noodles or a PET bottle of soda, as faces of the respective brands every popular face also needs to make sure that the consumers are aware of the health hazards they are promoting. Because not everyone is a Sunita Narain or Sourish Bhattacharya.