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social media food influencers

How ‘Thinly Veiled’ Social Media Ads Are Influencing What We Eat and Drink

October 27, 2023

How ‘Thinly Veiled’ Social Media Ads Are Influencing What We Eat and Drink

Ask students: When did the food and beverage industry begin to use social media? Why has the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics faced criticism in the past?

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News about food safety can be hard to keep straight. That’s been complicated by a little-known tactic used by the food and beverage industry to influence what we eat and drink through social media, the subject of a joint investigation by The Washington Post and The Examination. John Yang speaks with Washington Post health columnist Anahad O’Connor, who worked on the investigation, to learn more.

For a transcript, click here.

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Discussion Questions

  • Who conducted the joint investigation into the influence of the food and beverage industry on registered dietitians?
  • What did the World Health Organization's statement about aspartame's potential to cause cancer in humans lead to this summer?
  • When did the food and beverage industry begin to use social media?
  • Why has the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics faced criticism in the past?
  • Where did the investigation find that dietitians were posting ads on behalf of food and beverage companies?

Focus Questions

How might this influence the dietary choices and health decisions of the people who follow these dietitians on platforms like TikTok and Instagram?

Media literacy: How can individuals critically evaluate health and dietary information they come across on social media to ensure it's trustworthy and unbiased?

Extension Activity

Discuss as a class: What are some ways to avoid being fooled by ads disguised as social media posts?

Check out this video from MediWise's Teen Fact-checking Network on how to spot hidden ads.

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Media and Digital Literacy Resources

Foster digital literacy and safety online and explore the algorithmic biases that can cause direct harm to young people online.

Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Classroom.

PBS NewsHour Classroom
PBS NewsHour Classroom helps teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories. The site combines the best of NewsHour's reliable, trustworthy news program with lesson plans developed specifically for... See More
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