This past winter I wrote a post about Michele Simon’s work to expose the efforts of corporate food giants to influence nutritionists and dieticians. This month Simon is out with a new report that looks at how industry front groups are out to persuade, confuse, and obfuscate around issues that matter for industrial food processors’ bottom lines.
Simon provides an introduction to her report in a Huff Post entry. Here’s an excerpt:
Last month, the International Food Information Council Foundation released the third edition of its report, “Food Biotechnology: A Communicator’s Guide to Improving Understanding.” What sounds like a reasonable and helpful document is in fact the product of a well-oiled PR machine whose board of trustees includes executives from such food giants such as Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, and Mars….
With growing concern over the negative impacts of our highly industrialized and overly processed food system, the food industry has a serious public relations problem on its hands. Instead of cleaning up its act, corporate lobbyists are trying to control the public discourse. As a result, industry spin is becoming more prevalent and aggressive….
[N]ow more than ever new front groups are forming so quickly that it can be hard to keep up. And with deliberately confusing names such as Alliance to Feed the Future, Center for Food Integrity, and Global Harvest, it can be challenging to tell the good guys from the bad. I often have to remind people not to confuse the industry front group Center for Food Integrity with either the Center for Food Safety or the Food Integrity Campaign. Front groups position themselves cleverly to try and confuse media outlets, which too often just assume the information is coming from a reliable source.
As Simon explains in her report,
Several motivators explain the rise of front groups in recent years. Most branded food companies (such as McDonald’s or Coca-Cola) have millions of dollars invested in their public image and so would rather not engage in the under-handed and mean-spirited tactics that some front groups utilize. It’s much safer to give money to front groups to let them do the dirty work while the corporate brand image remains clean.
Also, the largest players in the food industry know that “Big Ag” and “Big Food” have become synonymous with bad, so they are no longer credible messengers. It’s better to create a front group that claims to represent farmers or consumers, two groups that are more sympathetic to the public.