by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: CCF(Center for Consumer Freedom)

Feb 12 2014

Sugar v. HFCS: How I got involved in this lawsuit

Eric Lipton of the New York Times, who wrote Monday’s revelation of how the National Restaurant Association funds front groups to fight a raise in the minimum wage, has just topped that story.

Today, he writes an enlightening account of the legal battles between sugar and HFCS trade associations over marketing issues, in which I seem to have played a part.  The story quotes me:

Marion Nestle, a New York University professor and nutrition expert named in several documents [scroll down to "Using Marion Nestle"] as someone whom corn industry executives sought to influence, said the role both industries played was unfortunate.

“It is a plague on both of their houses,” she said, adding that she felt manipulated by the corn refiners industry, which used her statements to defend its products. “It is a disgusting performance neither should be proud of.”

Mr. Lipton sent me two of the documents last night (letters from Audrae Erickson of the Corn Refiners Association to Larry Hobbs of the Institute of Beverage Technologists, and to J. Justin Wilson of Rick Berman’s public relations arm of the Center for Consumer Freedom).

Here’s my recollection of how I ended up in this lawsuit:

Yes, I argue that the science shows that sucrose (table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contain the same sugars—glucose and fructose—and do much the same things in the body.  I think everyone would be better off eating a lot less of either.  I repeated this in many blog posts over the years.

Sometime in 2010, Christopher Speed, then director of food and nutrition sciences at Ogilvy Public Relations, asked if I would meet with his client, Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association (CRA).  I agreed, provided the CRA make a contribution to the NYU library’s food studies collection for cataloging expenses.  This turned out to be $1,500.  We met.

Shortly after that, my statements about the equivalence of sucrose and HFCS appeared on the Corn Refiners’ website.

I asked to have the comments removed.

Ms. Erickson’s response?  My comments were public and if I wanted them removed I could take the CRA to court.

That ended our correspondence.

From Mr. Lipton’s account I learned for the first time of the CRA’s involvement with the Center for Consumer Freedom (see previous blog posts).

This explains what had been a great mystery.  The Center for Consumer Freedom has not exactly been my great fan.  It features me under ActivistCash, and usually has rather unpleasant things to say about my work and opinions.

But with respect to my opinions about sucrose v. HFCS, its comments were quite complimentary.  I should have realized that CRA was paying the Center, via Berman, to do this.

I was also fascinated to learn:

  • The CRA spent $30 million since 2008 on public relations.
  • Of that, $10 million funded research by James Rippe to prove HFCS is no different from sucrose (something you would learn from any basic biochemistry textbook).
  • Mr. Rippe got a $41,000 monthly retainer from the CRA.

Clearly, I should have asked for a lot bigger donation to our library.

Thanks Eric Lipton, for terrific investigative reporting.  Please do more of these.

Oct 3 2013

Center for Consumer Freedom, Mexican style

The President of Mexico has proposed a tax on soft drinks.  The soft-drink industry is not pleased.

As with Richmond, California’s tax initiative and New York City’s soda cap, the industry is pulling out all stops to oppose the tax.

It’s even gotten the Beverage Association’s attack dog, the Center for Consumer Freedom, into the action.

la foto

Photo: Mireia Vilar

Translation:

  • Should obesity be fought with taxes?
  • Yes or no? 
  • To tax the fatties (Google’s charming translation)

CCF is putting signs on school buses, apparently.

On the off chance that you are not familiar with CCF, SourceWatch is a good place to begin.

It runs media campaigns which oppose the efforts of scientists, doctors, health advocates, animal advocates, environmentalists and groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, calling them “the Nanny Culture…Its advisory board is comprised mainly of representatives from the restaurant, meat and alcoholic beverage industries.

I’ve also written about this group.  Enough said.

May 17 2013

How to recognize industry groups in disguise

Michele Simon and the Center for Food Safety have just come out with a new report: Best Public Relations Money Can Buy: A Guide to Food Industry Front Groups.

 This report explains how how Big Food and Big Ag promote their agendas through organizations with consumer-friendly names such as the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, the Center for Consumer Freedom, and the Alliance to Feed the Future.

The report is guide to recognizing such groups for what they really are.

It’s great to have it.

Addition: Here’s Michele Simon’s discussion of her new report.

Jun 11 2012

The soda industry strikes back

Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to limit sugary soft drinks to 16 ounces has elicited an industry counter attack as well as much attention to the role of sugary drinks in obesity.

The soda industry established a new organization, “Let’s Clear It Up,” with a website to spin the science.

Soda is a hot topic. And the conversation is full of opinions and myths, but not enough facts. America’s beverage companies created this site to clear a few things up about the products we make. So read on. Learn. And share the clarity.

Myth: The obesity epidemic can be reversed if people stop drinking soda. [I'm not aware that anyone is claiming this.  Bloomberg's proposal is aimed at making it easier for soda drinkers to reduce calorie intake.]

Fact: Sugar-sweetened beverages account for only 7% of the calories in the average American’s diet, according to government data. [The figure applies to everyone over the age of 2---to those who do and do not drink sodas.  The percentage is much higher for soda drinkers.]

Coca-Cola is using a second strategy: divert attention.  Its full-page ad in Sunday’s New York Times said:

Everything in moderation.  Except fun, try to have lots of that.

Our nation is facing an obesity problem and we’re taking steps to be part of the solution.  By promoting balanced diets and active lifestyles, we can make a positive difference.

By “balanced diets” Coke means varying package sizes.  By “active lifestyles” Coke means partnerships with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and gifts to national parks.  This approach merits its own website: livepositively.com.

And then we have USA Today’s not-to-be-missed interview with Katie Bayne, Coke’s president of sparkling beverages in North America:

Q: Is there any merit to limits being placed on the size of sugary drinks folks can buy?

A: Sugary drinks can be a part of any diet as long as your calories in balance with the calories out. Our responsibility is to provide drink in all the sizes that consumers might need. [Need?]

Q: But critics call soft drinks “empty” calories.

A: A calorie is a calorie. What our drinks offer is hydration. That’s essential to the human body. We offer great taste and benefits whether it’s an uplift or carbohydrates or energy. We don’t believe in empty calories. We believe in hydration. [Water, anyone?]

Finally, there’s the Washington Post interview with Todd Putman, a former Coke marketing executive now in recovery.

Putman, whose positions at Coca-Cola included U.S. head of marketing for carbonated drinks, said in the interview that among his achievements was tailoring the company’s national advertising campaigns to specific groups. The approach helped Coca-Cola intensify marketing to target audiences such as African Americans and Hispanics.

“It was just a fact that Hispanics and African Americans have higher per capita consumption of sugar-based soft drinks than white Americans,” he said. “We knew that if we got more products into those environments those segments would drink more.”

Is the soda industry behind the Center for Consumer Freedom’s Nanny Bloomberg ad?  I’ve yet to hear denials.

Jun 2 2012

Is this an American Beverage Association ad in disguise?

If the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) is placing ads attacking Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to limit the size of soft drinks to 16 ounces (see yesterday’s post), he must have done something right.

CCF, as I have explained previously, is used as an attack dog by the National Restaurant Association and other food and beverage organizations to stave off criticism of their contributions to obesity, poor health, and environmental degradation.

It gets paid to use tactics that food and beverage companies are afraid to do on their own because they might offend customers or stockholders.  Its funders get to hide behind these tactics.

CCF does not disclose its contributors.  Could the American Beverage Association have paid CCF to do this ad?

Coke and Pepsi are prominent members of the Beverage Association.  If so, they are now on record in overt opposition to public health efforts.

I welcome statements from the American Beverage Association and its members to the contrary.

Oct 18 2011

What is the Washington Legal Foundation?

The Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) placed an ad in yesterday’s New York Times.  

The Real Nutritional Guidelines

The ad continues:

Paternalistic plaintiffs’ lawyers, government officials, and professional activists are pecking away at consumers’ freedom of choice. They think we can’t manage our own lives, and through lawsuits, regulations, and taxes, they want to make our food choices for us—while profiting handsomely in the process. If we let these New Prohibitionists eat off our plates today, what other personal freedoms will they target tomorrow?

Help us defend consumer choice at EatingAwayOurFreedoms.org.

The website lists cigarette companies as clients:

The Washington Legal Foundation advocates for a free market economy, a common sense legal system, a transparent and accountable government, and a strong national defense. Our legal team shapes legal policy through aggressive litigation and advocacy at all levels of the judiciary and the policy-making arena.

Aggressive?  Clearly.

I’m not familiar with this group.  Could it possibly be connected to the Center for Consumer Freedom?

If you know anything about the WLF, do tell.

Addition, October 19: Thanks to readers for the enlightening comments.  One sent this document, in which WLF explains its mission.

If consumer protection were the real goal [of consumer advocates], then special interest ideologues would applaud businesses’ vigorous self-regulation of their advertising, and advocate viable, non-censorship solutions such as increased enforcement of underage drinking laws and more education on healthy food.

Instead of dumbing down America through activism, why not focus our efforts on real problems we face and produce drugs and vaccines to deal with pandemics, bioterrorism, and cancer. These are critical challenges that make the radical causes of self-anointed consumer advocates look petty and hopelessly irrelevant.

Reversing childhood obesity is a radical cause?  I’m for it!

Apr 1 2011

April Fool’s Day Alert!

The I assume ironically named Center for Consumer Freedom, ever on my case, posted a notice about my work on April 1, 2009

I found about about it only recently.  Someone who had read it on a Franchise Business Opportunities website wrote to ask if I would go into business with him. 

Enjoy!

Marion Nestle to Become Biggest New York McDonald’s Franchisee

Food and lifestyle critic Marion Nestle announced* this morning that she plans to invest in twelve Manhattan McDonald’s restaurants upon her retirement next month from New York University. The move will make the nutrition activist New York’s largest Golden Arches franchisee.

“It was a natural fit for me,” Nestle told The New York Times.* “After years of harping on the fast-food guys, I realized something shocking: People like affordable, tasty food. I’m certainly not going to get rich in my golden years by selling organic carrots and quinoa.” Former Times reporter Marion Burros returned from her own retirement to conduct the Marion-on-Marion interview.

A new special edition of Nestle’s book What to Eat is planned for the fall,* complete with a special cover designed by Hallmarks musical greeting-card department. Every time you open the book, Nestle’s own voice will be heard singing “Ba-da-bap-BAH-BAH! Im lovin it!”

Nestle added in a special Q&A for Mother Jones* that in her new role as a restaurateur, she would have to re-think practically everything she had written about food-industry marketing. “Momma’s got to make a living,” Nestle said. “I’ve promised the Socialist Scholars Conference that I’d co-sponsor next year’s event in Havana. So if I have to walk down Broadway dressed as Mayor McCheese to get butts in the seats, I’ll do it.”

*April Fool!

Dec 9 2010

Food industry fights back. Method: attack critics!

It is always interesting to watch the food industry deal with criticism.  One common strategy is to discredit critics through personal attacks. Most companies are too embarrassed to do this publicly.  Instead, they pay public relations firms—in this case, the Center for Consumer Freedom—to do this for them.

What is this group?  See Center for Consumer Freedom Exposed and follow the links to see lists of the food industry donors it keeps secret.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am an occasional target of this group, as can be seen from  the piece it posted yesterday:

Marion Nestle, Food Fascist

Marion Nestle, Food Fascist Sound harsh? After our latest check-in with everyone’s favorite anti-pleasure nutritionist, we think it’s completely appropriate. Marion Nestle published an article on her blog today quoting a law professor named Timothy Lytton, who insists that trampling on anyone’s First Amendment rights is a no-no. That prompted Nestle and fellow obesity warrior Dr. David Ludwig to fire off an astonishing letter.

The post goes on to quote extensively from my comments earlier this week.  It also points out:

At the end of the day, there’s no high-minded Constitutional principle in play here. This is about Marion Nestle attacking businesses she doesn’t like. This is the same professor who delivered a speech at an event sponsored by the “Socialist Conference” of the American Public Health Association. Nestle also addressed the “Socialist Scholars Conference” in 2003.

These kinds of strategies speak for themselves.

The corporations that hire the Center to do things like this should be ashamed of themselves.

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