Greenwashing Crusaders Now Tackling Bogus Food Marketing


The team that taught consumers how to call out greenwashing is now launching the Leanwashing Index. The new tool at allows users to post and rate advertising, packaging or any other food and fitness marketing that makes health claims.

Consumers are already calling out what they see as leanwashing. The first posts target “nutrition-rich” cookiesbreakfast cereals, and drink ads targeting moms and kids. To get the site started, Dr. Nurse’s undergraduate students have posted some 40 ads, and today the call goes out for consumers to begin posting and rating more ads.

Says Bradley, who has worked for Nabisco, Pillsbury and General Mills, “It’s no secret advertisers are not going to look out for consumer’s health. It’s time for consumers to take control and go beyond what they see on TV or on the front of the package.”

“With pizza considered a vegetable for school lunches, and the voluntary guidelines for food marketing to children stalled out in Washington, we know consumers need something now to help them scrutinize some of the bogus ‘health’ claims that abound in food and product advertising,” said EnviroMedia co-founder and CEO Davis.

While EnviroMedia built the site, the team of advisers helped develop the system the Leanwashing Index uses to generate an ad score, with one being “authentic” and five being “bogus.” When posting or rating an ad, users respond to prompts to five leanwashing criteria. If an ad is geared toward children, the user is guided through a separate set of criteria.

“Few things are worse than trying to manipulate our children. I see marketing’s negative health influence in my own kids and in my patients,” said Dr. Pont. “The Leanwashing Index website will provide a prominent platform for public scrutiny of the misleading and frankly deceptive advertising practices that are hurting our children.”

A 2011 Nielsen Global Survey of more than 25,000 Internet respondents shows that people are skeptical about the accuracy and believability of health claims such as “low fat” and “all natural” found on food packaging. More than two-thirds indicate they believe the nutritional claims are either never or only sometimes trustworthy. The study also showed nearly six in 10 (59 percent) consumers around the world have difficulty understanding nutritional facts on food packaging.

“Advertising of soda and junk food has gone over the top, making claims that are ludicrous! In the midst of the childhood obesity epidemic, ‘truth in advertising’ is more important than ever,” said Goldstein.