Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Remember This Every Time the Food Industry Claims They're Trying to Help

A few weeks ago Coca-Cola sent out an email to Canadian researchers involved in the study of obesity.

I'm going to cut and paste it in its entirety but the gist is that Coca-Cola's working tirelessly to help. But before you read it, I want to bring you back to those quotes I mentioned yesterday from Coca-Cola's marketing chief Joe Tripodi. He told it like it is to the Wall Street Journal
"If we can get 40 million-plus fans, or even some subset of them talking positively about the things we’re doing, ultimately that’s a good thing for us
And by "good thing" Mr. Tripodi means sales,
"I think it’s probably a leading indicator of potential sales."
And what kind of sales does Mr. Tripodi hope for? He told CNBC in 2011,
"We want to double our business in basically a decade."
Somehow I don't think a doubling of Coca-Cola's business is going to help obesity much, do you?

At the end of the day the food industry's job is to increase sales.  Period.  Anything it does, from public private partnerships with health organizations, to funding research, to changing advertising practices, to seemingly following through with health reforms - all of it is designed ultimately to help with sales.  That's not an indictment of the food industry, it's just the nature of corporations.

Please don't forget that when you hear about how the food industry is a "partner", a "stakeholder", or "part of the solution".

[Email sent to Canadian health researchers from Coca-Cola's Director of Public Affairs and Communications on May 17th, 2012:]
Last week in the USA, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention hosted its second Weight of the Nation Conference in Washington, D.C. The event brought together some of the best and brightest in the fields of health, academics, research, marketing and education to share what they’re doing to fight overweight and obesity. A lot of information was shared and many ideas presented, but one message was clear— there are no simple solutions to address a problem as complex as obesity. A problem of this magnitude will require the collective efforts of all of us to make an impact.

We believe a lot can be gained by collaborating and modeling best practices that work. I wanted to take this opportunity to state that Coca-Cola is committed to working with all sectors of society to be a part of the solution and outline some of the steps that we are taking – both nationally and locally – to promote active, healthy living. For example:

  • We worked with industry partners to remove sparkling, full calorie beverages from schools and reduce the calories available to students
  • We do not market our brands in media channels where children under the age of 12 make up more than 35% of the audience
  • We offer Canadians over 30 low- and no-calorie beverages to choose from, in addition to portion-controlled versions of our most popular brands
  • We have placed calorie information on the front of nearly all of our packages. We are also phasing in calorie information on our vending machines and working with our customers to determine how best to place calorie information on fountain equipment as part of the beverage industry’s Clear on Calories program
  • We recently launched a major marketing initiative demonstrating how our partnership with ParticiPACTION is getting youth active across the country while encouraging more youth and community groups to apply for grants designed to break down local barriers to active living. If you have not seen our commercial I encourage you to take a moment to watch -
  • Through our work with ParticipACTION we have enabled over 30,000 youth from across the country to get active. In addition, we have provided funding to over 2000 community-based organizations across the country.
  • In addition, we are advancing the importance of physical activity through our sponsorship of Exercise is Medicine with the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiologists. The CSES hope to launch the program later this year. Exercise is Medicine® is an initiative focused on encouraging primary care physicians and other health care providers to include exercise when designing treatment plans for patients.
We are committed to providing people with the beverage options they want, along with the information they need to make the right decisions for their individual diets and lifestyles. We will continue to collaborate with others working towards these and other real-world solutions.

For more information about our products, policies and programs, visit . If you have any questions or require additional information, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.


Christina De Toni
Director, Public Affairs & Communications
Coca-Cola Refreshments
T: (613) 736-4232

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  1. Anonymous6:19 am

    They couldn't even get CSEP's acronym right.

  2. Anonymous6:26 am

    I thought medicine was already owned by big Pharma?

  3. The problem isn't corporations. And it's not government. It's academia. Here's a quote from the Introduction to Food for Nought: The Decline in Nutrition (1976) by Ross Hume Hall, PhD.

    "Nourishment of the American populace has undergone a startling transformation since World War II. A highly individual system of growing and marketing food has been transformed into a gigantic, highly integrated service system in which the object is not to nourish or even to feed, but to force an ever-increasing consumption of fabricated products. This phenomenon is not peculiar to the American scene and occurs in every industrialized country. The United States, however, has progressed furthest in the transformation. Man can never be more than what he eats, and one would expect that a phenomenon with such profound effects on health and wellbeing as a radically changed system of supplying nourishment would be thoroughly documented and assessed by the scientific community. Such is not the case. The transformation has gone unmarked by government agencies and learned bodies. Government agencies, recipients of the public trust, charged with protecting and improving the public's food, operate as if the technology of food fabrication rested in pre-World War II days. Scientific bodies, supported by public funds and charged with assessing and improving the public's health, ignore completely the results of contemporary methods of marketing food...Failure to monitor and to appreciate the results of rapidly moving technology produces a brutal effect that forms the central theme of this book. Technology founded on mechanistic laws clashes head on with the processes of a natural world which adheres to very different laws. Modern industry, ignoring these biologic laws, molds and manipulates natural processes to suit and to promote its own mechanistic and economic goals."

    Basically, academia has allowed corporate influence to shape the content of academic instruction such that health experts get indoctrinated with information favoring the interests of food and beverage corporations. The process continues due to the close relationship between government agencies, professional organizations and educational entities such as the International Food Information Council Foundation(IFICF), the latest iteration in a series of corporate supply chain protection schemes. In my opinion, academia has been derelict to allow corporate influence to permeate its institutions.

    Corporations formulate their products and consumers choose what to eat according to what authorities say is healthy. But since corporations essentially control the education of authorities, mistakes don't easily come to light.

  4. It's a Big cluster-f%&k. Big Media, Big Food, Big Pharma, and Big Diets...follow the money.

  5. And don't forget to add Big Government which is influenced by Big Food, Big Pharma, etc.

  6. Anonymous8:45 pm

    That doubling of business they call for could largely come from increased sales of low calorie beverages.