In This Issue
   
 

Editor's Note

 

American Diabetes Association Sells Out

 

Coke Teaching Kids about Nutrition

 

Top Health Experts on Food Giants’ Payroll

 

School Food Legislation Round-up

 

Food Marketing to Kids Heats Up

 

Volunteer to Expose Big Food

 

Thirst for Profit Online

 

Seeking Local Stories

 
Quote, Unquote
   
  “These people give us money for our educational programs. And in return, they can indicate that we sponsor them only on products that are better to eat.”
   – Dr. Richard Kahn, defending the American Diabetes Association’s new alliance with Cadbury Schweppes.
   
 
 
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   
 

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June 2005

Editor's Note: This month’s issue has a definite theme: sell-outs and compromises. There were so many to report, it was hard to choose. But see the Fighting Back section for important ways to take action. Informed Eating will be taking a brief hiatus over the summer, but only to concentrate on a longer-term book project to expose food industry lobbying. (See call for volunteers.) Enjoy the summer and keep fighting back!

Brief News from Big Food

American Diabetes Association Sells Out

In April, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) announced a partnership with Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages, makers of such soft drinks as 7-Up, Dr. Pepper, and Snapple, and whose parent company is famous for its chocolate cream egg-shaped candy. Described as “a three-year, multi-million dollar alliance to support the Association in its efforts to fight obesity and diabetes in America,” the deal means the soda giant will conduct extensive outreach activities “to increase consumer awareness of health and wellness, and the importance of making smarter nutritional choices.”

Amazed at this unholy alliance, Informed Eating shared the news with our colleagues at Commercial Alert. Executive director Gary Ruskin promptly released this statement to the press: “Maybe the American Diabetes Association should rename itself the American Junk Food Association. If Cadbury Schweppes really wanted to reduce the incidence of obesity and diabetes, it would stop advertising its high-sugar products, and remove them from our nation’s schools. This is just another attempt by a major junk food corporation to obfuscate its responsibility in the epidemic of obesity and diabetes in the United States. The American Diabetes Association should return this corrupt contribution to Cadbury Schweppes immediately.”

Then, the Corporate Crime Reporter (CCR) decided to try and get some answers directly from the source. The resulting funny but sad interview with Dr. Richard Kahn, ADA’s chief scientific and medical officer reveals both ignorance and gall. For example, Kahn claims never to have heard of the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s well-known report, “Liquid Candy,” which describes in detail the myriad public health problems resulting from excess soda consumption. Even worse, Kahn staunchly defends ADA’s policy of taking money from companies that contribute to the very health problems he is trying to reduce. Here is a typical exchange from that interview:  

KAHN: Most of the companies that give us educational grants are not in the food industry.

CCR: But you do take money even from candy companies.
KAHN: No, I don’t think we do take money from candy companies.

CCR: Well, Cadbury Schweppes is a candy company.

KAHN: If we want to prevent diabetes, reduce the prevalence of obesity, help find the cure to diabetes, we have to get funds from someplace.

Corporate watchdogs Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman put it succinctly in a follow-up commentary to their interview: “If you are wondering why Americans are losing the wars on cancer, heart disease and diabetes, you might look at the funding sources of the major public health groups. Big corporations dump big money into these groups.” Cadbury Schwepps can now take its place among these other companies who also contribute money to the American Diabetes Association: Kraft Foods, J.M. Smucker Company, General Mills, Inc., and H.J. Heinz Company.

Sources: American Diabetes Association Press Release, 04/21/05
http://www.diabetes.org/for-media/2005-press-releases/cadbury-schweppes.jsp
Commercial Alert Press Releases, 4/21/05 and 5/16/05
http://www.commercialalert.org/blog/archives/2005/04/index.html
http://www.commercialalert.org/blog/archives/2005/05/after_sweet_ind.html
Corporate Crime Reporter, 05/16/05
http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com/diabetes051605.htm


Coke Teaching Kids about Nutrition

The Coca-Cola Company has announced another educational program targeted to the nation’s middle schools. The company says its new initiative—called “Live It!”—will help students build healthy lifestyles by encouraging physical activity and providing nutrition information in schools. “Live It!” comes on the heals of Coke’s “Step With It!” curriculum, which has already reached more than one million kids. The new program is currently being “tested in key markets” and will be available to 6th graders in middle schools across the U.S. in the fall of 2005.“

"Because of our long-time partnership with America’s schools, Coca-Cola wants to play a positive and effective role in helping to promote healthy, active lifestyles among students nationwide,” explained Don Knauss, president of Coca-Cola North America. The program was developed in collaboration with The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and the School Nutrition Association, thus getting the stamp of approval from both the federal government and a powerful trade association that’s supposed to care about schoolchildren’s health. (SNA is the former American School Food Service Association.)

Source: Coca-Cola Press Release, 5/26/05
http://www2.coca-cola.com/presscenter/nr_20050526_americas_liveit.html


Top Health Experts on Food Giants’ Payroll

The New York Times ran an excellent article last month about how at least two dozen leading nutrition scientists and experts have started working for large food companies, either as consultants or as members of health advisory boards. McDonald's, Kraft, PepsiCo, and the Coca-Cola Company have each created advisory boards, paying members who might otherwise be their critics. For example, Dr. Dean Ornish, known for touting a low-fat, mostly vegetarian diet to prevent heart disease is now a paid consultant for none other than McDonald’s. Ornish, who also stumps for PepsiCo and ConAgra Foods, defends the deal as “an amazing platform to make a difference."

But other experts aren’t so sure. Dr. George Blackburn, director of the Center for the Study of Nutrition Medicine at Harvard Medical School stepped down from McDonald's advisory council two months ago because he was disappointed that the fast food giant didn’t incorporate his recommendations into its "Balanced Lifestyles" campaign. He complained that messages to cut calories and eat quality food “weren't making it through” and that instead, the company only wanted to promote exercise.

Members of McDonald’s advisory council, who receive an annual fee of $7,500, also include Dr. Dennis Bier, director of the Children's Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine. Bier’s colleague at Baylor, Dr. John Foreyt, appears in a Coca-Cola ad in magazines like Good Housekeeping. Another preventive medicine expert, Dr. Kenneth Cooper, advises PepsiCo on its “Smart Spot” labeling program. Food Politics author Marion Nestle isn’t impressed. "These companies can say we have all these really important people who care about health working with us, and that takes some of the heat off," she said. "But all they're doing is making junk food marginally healthier."

Source: The New York Times, 05/02/05

Fighting Back - Take Action

School Food Legislation Round-up

In recent months, state legislatures around the U.S. have been a hotbed of activity for attempting to remove soda and junk food from school grounds. However, thanks to heavy industry lobbying, many compromises are being made. For example, in April Arizona passed a law that bans the sales of soft drinks and candy during the school day, but only K-8. The bill also requires the Arizona Department of Education to develop nutrition standards for snacks and drinks, but it’s still unclear where items such as doughnuts and potato chips will fall. The provision that would have extended the ban to high schools was added and removed from the bill several times, but ultimately, the junk food lobby won.  

An even worse story unfolded in Oregon, where what was a relatively strong piece of legislation was completely gutted thanks to corporate lobbying. The bill would have banned carbonated soft drinks, candy, and fried pastry products while setting strict nutritional and calorie requirements for other snack items sold in schools. But the bill that passed calls only for schools to have “wellness policies.” An Oregon newspaper editorial squarely places the blame with politicians bowing to corporate pressure: “Sen. Vicki Walker's reconstituted bill resembles the position favored by the Oregon Soft Drink Association, which, coincidentally, has made hefty campaign contributions to Walker and to two other members of the Senate Education Committee: Sen. Ryan Deckert, D-Beaverton, and Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg. The three lawmakers each received $2,000 of the $91,000 the soft drink lobby poured into legislators' coffers last fall.”

A trend is developing in numerous state legislatures to propose bills that call on schools and districts to create “wellness policies”, as an alternative to an outright ban on sales of junk food and soda. (Colorado is another recent example of where such a bill passed.) However, the concept is puzzling because it is redundant to a law that already exists at the federal level.  Last year’s child nutrition reauthorization law requires that all schools have a wellness policy in place by of the beginning of the 2006 school year. So, are these state bills even needed or do they just provide an easy way to avoid taking stronger action? Joy Johanson, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, who has been providing schools technical assistance with drafting such policies in compliance with the federal law, agrees that too often states are simply trying to pass “feel-good” measures that appear to address school nutrition but actually lack any real substance.

Finally, in Connecticut, quite a drama has been unfolding in the past several weeks over the strongest bill of its kind in the nation. A David v. Goliath fight is pitting relentless grassroots advocacy against intense corporate lobbying. The original bill would have allowed only water, juice, and milk to be sold during the school day, K-12; however, a compromise allows diet soda and sports drinks to be sold in high schools after the lunch period. At one stage of the extremely contentious battle, lawmakers debated for eight hours while junk food lobbyists swarmed the state capital in hopes of killing the bill altogether.

Under-handed tactics included how Coca-Cola lobbyists shared data regarding school income from soda sales with lawmakers behind closed doors, so advocates couldn’t refute the information. Also, after the diet soda compromise in the House, the bill had to go back to the Senate, where it had already passed. But this time, lawmakers there attempted to stall the process by adding no fewer than 10 unrelated amendments, such as requiring smoke detectors in school bathrooms. But reason eventually prevailed and now the bill awaits Republican Governor Jodi Rell’s signature. She has indicated some resistance to signing the bill. Kudos to End Hunger Connecticut! for all its hard work. You can help them by calling the governor’s office. Visit: http://www.endhungerct.org for details.

Sources: The Arizona Republic, 04/27/05
http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/0427junkfood27.html

The Register-Guard, 05/16/05
http://www.registerguard.com/news/2005/05/16/ed.edit.junkfood.0516.html
School Nutrition Association, 04/27/05
http://www.schoolnutrition.org/Index.aspx?id=1207
The New York Times, 05/29/05


Food Marketing to Kids Heats Up: File Comments to FTC by June 9

The topic of food marketing to children continues to garner much-needed attention. A report from the governmental advisory body, the Institutes of Medicine, is due out this fall. Senator Tom Harkin has recently renewed his call for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to be given back its full authority to regulate junk food ads to kids. And the Center for Informed Food Choices is coordinating a legal symposium with Loyola Law School in Los Angeles on October 21.

On July 14 and 15, the FTC and the Department of Health and Human Services are co-hosting a workshop in Washington DC entitled, “Perspectives on Marketing, Self-Regulation, & Childhood Obesity." The government says the event “will bring together representatives from food and beverage companies, medical and nutrition experts, representatives from media and entertainment companies, consumer groups, advertising specialists, and other key experts for an open discussion on industry self-regulation concerning the marketing of food and beverages to children, as well as initiatives to educate children and parents about nutrition.”

FTC Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras is not hiding where she stands, which is decidedly with industry. Last month, at a conference sponsored by defense lawyers, she made the following remarks as she outlined the purpose of the July workshop: “I want to be clear, this is not the first step toward new government regulations to ban or restrict children’s food advertising and marketing.” She went on at great length to extol the benefits of self-regulation, which is exactly what the food industry prefers. This is an odd stance to say the least for an agency whose motto is “For the Consumer.”

The July workshop gives us all the opportunity to tell the government that we are fed up with McDonald’s luring our kids with toys and clowns, with Star Wars tie-in promotions for endless streams of junk food, with candy disguising itself as cereal, and the like. If you want to tell the government that it needs to reign in the marketing practices of major food companies that make your job as a parent so hard, now is your chance. The FTC is requesting comments from the public on a set of questions related to food marketing to children. You can also request to participate in the workshop, which is likely to be heavily-weighted toward corporate representatives. This is an important opportunity for advocates and parents alike to take part in democracy. It’s important to create a record of dissent even if the government fails to act as it should. The deadline for both requesting to take part in the workshop and for filing comments is Thursday, June 9. For details on how to file, visit: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2005/05/childobese.htm. If you do send comments, please email us a copy at: talkback@informedeating.org. Thank you.

Source: Remarks of Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras. Obesity Liability Conference, 05/11/05
http://www.ftc.gov/speeches/majoras/050511obesityliability.pdf


Volunteer to Expose Food Industry Tactics

CIFC’s Michele Simon is currently writing a book to expose food industry lobbying tactics. If you have some extra time on your hands and want to hone your already excellent research and organizational skills, while helping to tell the world about how major food companies can’t be trusted, please send your resume and why you’re interested to: Michele@informedeating.org. Hours are flexible; you can work from anywhere and must commit to at least the summer.


Thirst for Profit Now Online

“Thirst for Profit,” Michele Simon’s cover story in the March/April issue of Mothering magazine about soda industry lobbying to undermine state legislation is now available for download on CIFC’s website here:

www.informedeating.org/thirstforprofit2.pdf


Seeking Local Stories of Battling Big Food

CIFC is currently gathering stories at the state and local levels where the food industry is attempting to block nutrition advocacy efforts. Many states, cities, and counties around the country are trying to pass nutrition-related legislation (e.g., limiting junk food in schools or imposing soda taxes), but the food industry is lobbying hard to either stop or curtail these efforts. If you know about any specific fights, we want to hear about them. We are especially interested in stories related to soda contracts in schools. Please contact Michele Simon at: Michele@informedeating.org or (510) 465-0322. Thank you!


The Center for Informed Food Choices in a nonprofit organization that advocates for a whole foods, plant-based diet and educates about the politics of food.

CIFC is proud to make Informed Eating available as a free public service. Unlike industry publications, it is not underwritten by corporate sponsors. We would greatly appreciate your support for this newsletter and our other important policy work. For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit www.informedeating.org or call (510) 465-0322.

Informed Eating is written and edited by Michele Simon. You may contact her at Michele@informedeating.org. Michele Simon is available for lectures and workshops in your community and can speak on a variety of food policy topics. For more information, visit: http://www.informedeating.org/lectures.html.

 


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2005 Informed Eating  -  All Rights Reserved