So you’re wheeling down the aisle at the grocery store and you get to the snack section with all the not-so-good-for-you items, like Oreos and chocolate chip cookies. You pick up a package of Chips Ahoy. You know it’s not healthy, but it reminds you of being a kid and the taste still makes you smile. Then you hear an ad telling you how delicious these cookies are and how you can save $2 if you grab a nearby coupon. Do you put those cookies in your cart or place them back on the shelf?


As a health-conscious Green Monster who knows it’s best to steer clear of these types of aisles, this situation might not ever happen to you. But if big food companies have their way, this could be a very real situation for some people.

A corporation, Mondelez International (which produces Chips Ahoy, Nabisco, Ritz and other well-known snack companies), has plans for a grocery shelf equipped with sensors that will collect demographic information, such as age and sex of customers, as reported by the Washington Post.

The new shelves aren’t set to debut until 2015, but consumers need to be aware that this kind of marketing might be going on, and we must act now to prevent this kind of surveillance.

What you can do to prevent food companies from spying on you

The sensors won’t actually take a picture of your face, but if the idea of companies spying on you bothers you, action must be taken now.


As Robin Shreeves of the Mother Nature Network points out, “If this is something that makes you uncomfortable, let stores know.”

She goes on to say that because of demanding consumers, many grocery stores have made changes, such as not carrying genetically engineered salmon or taking carmine, a natural food dye made from bugs, out of its products, as Starbucks did.

“If consumers are insistent enough,” she writes, “stores will listen.”

So consumers, we must let companies and grocery stores know if we are not OK with them spying on us while we shop.


Junk food will be even harder to resist in the future

Even if companies are prevented from spying on customers in such a blatant although hidden way — the sensors will likely be small and not seen — they will find ways to market their products in smarter ways, which means it’s only going to get harder to resist buying processed snack foods. And snack foods like Oreos already effect your brain like cocaine, so it makes sense why you might crave them or not be able to stop eating them.

But would the situation be different if companies who offer healthy foods like carrots started using these same tactics? Well, more people eating healthy food is a good thing, but is this really what we want? To be spied on throughout our day and bombarded with ads, even if they are targeted to us and sometimes offer discounts?


 Image Source: Cory Doctorow/Flickr