by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Partnerships

Mar 27 2011

Coca-Cola: solving the obesity problem?

I enjoy reading the San Francisco Chronicle when I’m in that city.  Today’s has a full-page ad from Coca-Cola: “Everything in moderation.  Except fun, try to have lots of that.”

Our nation is facing an obesity problem and we plan on being part of the solution.  By promoting balanced diets and active lifestules, we can make a positive difference.

For some people, a 12-fl.-oz. beverage may be too much.  Everyone’s needs are different.  So we’ve created a variety of package sizes….

While keeping track of calories is important, so is burning them off.  In our partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, we’ve heled more than one million kids learn the importance of physical activity and proper nutrition….

  As I keep saying, you can’t make this stuff up.

Feb 19 2011

American Heart Association says “I ♥ beef”!

The Beef Board, the USDA-managed checkoff program for marketing beef, proudly announces its new partnership with the American Heart Association (AHA).  The Beef Board gets its money from a compulsory tax on cattle ranchers computed every time they sell an animal.  Evidently, the money is well spent.

The AHA will put its HeartCheck symbol on three cuts of lean beef:

  • Boneless Top Sirloin Petite Roast (select grade)
  • Top Sirloin Filet (select grade)
  • Top Sirloin Kabob (select grade)

A member of the Beef Board says: “”We are extremely thrilled to receive the American Heart Association certification because, for consumers, it represents the independent voice of a trusted health organization.”

I’ll bet they are.

Today’s quiz: How much money is the Beef Board paying the AHA to use its CheckMark logo?

I hope it’s a lot more than what the AHA gets (or used to get) for putting its check mark on sugary cereals.  This was $4,500 per product when I updated Food Politics in 2007.  After all, sugary cereals don’t have any saturated fat or cholesterol so they must be heart healthy, no?

Ah partnerships and alliances.  You have to love them.  How will the Beef Board use the HeartCheck?  With an I ♥ Beef  campaign, of course.  Fat content unspecified.

Oct 25 2010

Happy Halloween: UNICEF-Canada partners with Cadbury

A Canadian reader, Professor Amir Attaran of the Law and Medicine Faculties at the University of Ottawa, has just discovered UNICEF-Canada’s Halloween partnership with Cadbury:

I was not made cheery this morning when at the grocery store, I found UNICEF’s name and logo plastered all over the packages of Halloween candy.  On closer investigation, UNICEF Canada have struck a three-year partnership with Cadbury (this is the final year) where UNICEF lends its name and logo to advertising some 4 million packages of Cadbury candies each year.  In exchange, Cadbury donated some money ($500k) to UNICEF for schools in Africa.

The UNICEF Cadbury “Schoolhouse Project” (now closed) collected donations from Canadian communities for children in Africa.

UNICEF continues to collect funds for such purposes and has declared October 31 as National UNICEF Day.

Remember UNICEF’s orange trick-or-treat boxes? They helped make October 31 National UNICEF Day – and taught scores of Canadians that they can make a vital difference around the world. Today, it’s easier than ever to have an impact on the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children.

But UNICEF-Canada is aggressively seeking donations from corporate partners, apparently with little regard for what they sell.

Invest in the world’s children today to make a world of difference tomorrow. On behalf of UNICEF Canada, we invite you to involve your organization in a rewarding partnership and unique business opportunity. UNICEF Canada designs exclusive customized initiatives that achieve real, measurable business results while meeting your humanitarian goals.

Enhance your brand, drive sales, increase revenues. UNICEF delivers….We have built direct relationships with governments, businesses and community leaders in every jurisdiction where UNICEF is present.

No other aid organization engenders greater trust. None has greater impact.

Make us part of your business strategy and join us in building a better world for children. For your bottom line, for the sake of our children and for the future of our world, there is no better investment.

As I keep saying, you cannot make this stuff up.

Candy?  Or, UNICEF’s other Canadian partners such as Pizza Nova?

I know the argument: It’s Halloween and kids will eat candy anyway, so why not make some money from it.  This is the same argument used to promote sales of junk food in vending machines in U.S. schools.

But should UNICEF-Canada be doing this?  Canadians: how about doing some serious talking about this embarrassing partnership.

Addition, October 26:  Here’s what Cadbury gets for its $500,000 donation:

A cornerstone of the partnership is the dedication of significant space on approximately 4.3 million boxes and bags of mini-treats each year to raise awareness about UNICEF and the Schools for Africa programme. Cadbury Adams will also use point of purchase displays, flyers, advertising and the Web to promote the programme and its toll-free number.

Jul 15 2010

Nestlé does nutrition education in China

Nestlé (the corporation, not me) is moving its Healthy Kids Program to China, and intends to put the program into every country in which it operates by the end of 2011.

The program “aims to improve the nutrition, health and wellness of children aged 6-12 years old by promoting nutrition education, balanced diet, greater physical activity and a healthy lifestyle.”

Nestlé believes that education is the single most powerful tool for ensuring that children understand the value of nutrition and physical activity to their health through the course of their lives. As a Council member of the Chinese Nutrition Society, Nestlé is indeed honoured to work together with the authorities and several other organizations to promote nutrition awareness and health education for the Chinese children.

Want to make some guesses about what this program will say about nutrition?  Note yesterday’s post.  Probiotics in juice drink straws, anyone?

One clue comes from that barge loaded with food products that Nestle is sending up the Amazon into the Brazilian outback: The vessel will carry 300 different goods including chocolate, yogurt, ice cream and juices.”

Jul 11 2010

British government promises no regulation in exchange for food industry funding

In a classic example of government sending the fox off to guard the chickens, Andrew Lansley, Britain’s new health minister has just handed the country’s food industry a gift it cannot refuse.  If the industry agrees to pay for the British government’s principal anti-obesity campaign, the government promises that it will impose no new regulations on the industry.

According to The Guardian (UK):

[Lansley] told a conference of public health experts that he wanted a new partnership with food and drink firms. In exchange for a “non-regulatory approach”, the private sector would put up cash to fund the Change4Life campaign to improve diets and boost levels of physical activity among young people…He said business people ‘understand the social responsibility of people having a better lifestyle and they don’t regard that as remotely inconsistent with their long-term commercial interest.”

I posted about the Change4Life program on January 24, 2009.  Even then, it was clear that the program was deeply influenced by food industry interests:

British government launched an anti-obesity campaign: The UK government’s Change4Life campaign is designed to promote healthier lifestyles.  This is causing much discussion, not least because of its food-industry sponsorship (uh oh).  Food companies are said to view the campaign as good for business (uh oh, indeed). The government wants everyone to help with the campaign by putting up posters and such, and its website is cheery.  Buried in all of this is some good advice, but most of it is phrased as eat better, not eat less or avoid.  That, of course, is why the food industry is willing to fund a campaign which, if successful, could hardly be in the food industry’s best interest.

I asked Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City University, London, what this was all about (he wrote an editorial for the British Medical Journal, which I will post when it appears).

The speech by Andrew Lansley was pretty depressing. Not only did it forecast handing over funding of the sole national social marketing effort on obesity to companies, but it also heralds a return to the bad old days when the UK Government buried its head in the sand about food and public health issues. It’s taken 30 years to get first the Thatcher-Major Conservative Government (in the 1980s & 90s) and then the Blair-Brown Labour Government (in the 2000s) to see that government does have a role.

Indeed, without government setting the framework, there can be a race to the bottom: an avalanche of competing messages all appealing to individual behaviour change, when no individual can control the determinants of their health. That’s why so many people are troubled by Mr Lansley’s speech. It winds back that learning process over the last two decades, reducing health to individual choices and to market relationships.

Ironically, that might be its Achilles heel. As a strategy, corporate responsibility puts awesome responsibility on the companies to sort out public health, which they neither want to do (they sell products, not health!) nor are able to do, even if they wanted to. Not even the mightiest food companies control all the variables for health.

In that sense, Mr Lansley’s speech was dangerously policy illiterate. Advances in health come when the ground rules are changed; thereafter, let markets operate, fine. But to reduce public health to market dynamics flies in the face of history. But let’s see. Maybe this was sabre rattling. But maybe not.

Michele Simon, who alerted me to this story in the first place, asks: “What is the trade exactly?”  This is a complete “win-win for industry.  They get to run the campaign and not be regulated.”

Moral: Expect no public health messages about eating less, or further restrictions on health claims from this campaign.

Jul 1 2010

Food is not tobacco, but some analogies are worth attention

I’ve just read an enlightening paper in the July issue of the American Journal of Public Health (see Note below) about the tobacco industry’s role in and funding of “We Card,” a program ostensibly aimed at discouraging smoking among young people by encouraging retail cigarette sellers to “card” underage buyers.

The paper is an analysis of internal food company discussions about this program in cigarette company documents released as part of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement.  These documents are now publicly available on the University of  California San Francisco (UCSF) website.

This analysis demonstrates that the actual purpose of tobacco industry support for the program was to make the industry look good (public relations) and to convince legislators and health officials that regulation would be unnecessary.

The industry effectively recruited astonishing numbers of private business, retail, and trade groups (expected) and state health, legal, and police agencies (which should have known better) as partners in this program.  The paper lists these groups in tables that take up nearly five pages.

As the paper explains:

Economic theory predicts that industry self-regulation will achieve social benefits far smaller than those gained from government regulation, although governments increasingly view self-regulation as a means to achieve public goals without public spending. However, industries and governments may have competing agendas, suggesting that public health advocates should be wary of self-regulation strategies…. This program’s success in reaching tobacco retailers and attracting independent allies has made We Card one of the tobacco industry’s major public relations achievements. However, despite industry claims that the program is effective, internal industry evidence suggests that We Card has not reduced tobacco sales to minors and that it was not designed to do so. Instead, We Card was explicitly structured to improve the industry’s public image and to thwart regulation and law enforcement activity.

The authors’ conclusion: “Policymakers should be cautious about accepting industry self-regulation at face value, both because it redounds to the industry’s benefit and because it is ineffective.”

Proponents of food industry self-regulation and of partnerships and alliances with food companies should read this study carefully.

Note: Only the Abstract is available to non-subscribers.  The reference is Apollonio DE, Malone RE, The “We Card” Program: Tobacco Industry “Youth Smoking Prevention” as Industry Self Preservation.. Am J Public Health 2010;100:1188-1201.

May 9 2010

Food politics in the media: recent examples

I’ve collected a few video bits and other such things.  Can’t wait to share them:

Enjoy!  Happy Mother’s Day!

Mar 14 2010

Join the home farming movement: Partner with Triscuits!

I like Triscuits (Nabisco/Kraft) and am especially fond of the “Hint of Salt” variety.  These only have three ingredients: whole grain soft white winter wheat, soybean oil, salt.  And the sodium is indeed relatively low – about 5 mg per cracker.

But I am always suspicious of corporate partnerships and alliances with advocacy groups.  So I am deeply disappointed not to find “Hint of Salt” Triscuits included in the Triscuit’s new “Home Farming” partnership:

JOIN THE MOVEMENT: From rural areas to urban communities, home farms are sprouting up all over the country. And it’s only just begun. Triscuit has created this site with help from Urban Farming, a non-profit organization, to help build a home farming community where both beginners and more seasoned gardeners can dialogue and gather information towards their common mission: to reap food that is deliciously fresh, penny-wise, healthier for themselves and the planet. It’s about home farming, and the everyday joy that grows out of it. So join us and let’s get farming!

OK.  So you can’t make this stuff up.

Apparently, only the saltier Original Triscuits qualify (whole wheat, soybean and/or palm oil, and three times as much salt) for home farming.  These “Original” boxes come embedded with basil seeds to get you started.  How come there aren’t any basil seeds in “Hint of Salt?”

MarketingDaily explains how this partnership with Urban Farming is promoting the creation of community farms, not to mention salty snacks.

Thanks to Michele Simon who posted on this.  Thanks also to Ellen Fried who wonders: “But how do home farmers grow Triscuits?”