How Junk Food Giant PepsiCo Is Buying Up High-Ranking Experts to Look Like a Leader in Health and Nutrition
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Full nutritional equivalence? I don't recall seeing that in the U.S. dietary recommendations: "Eat foods with full nutritional equivalence." But what else can you aspire to when your food products don't fit into any actual food groups?
Just where is all this alleged desire to improve the product portfolio coming from? Dr. Mensah waxes sentimental about PepsiCo's CEO (which Yach does as well):
It's coming from the very very top. Indra Nooyi, if you didn't know her, you would think she was a public health specialist. There is real passion at the top. ... Indra Nooyi wants PepsiCo to be part of the solution.
Of course she does, because otherwise she'd be part of the problem.
CEO Indra Nooyi Inserts PR into Annual Obesity Report
CEO Nooyi has certainly made her intentions to position PepsiCo in the midst of the nation's discourse about obesity loud and clear. In addition to her hiring spree and endless speeches on the corporate " Performance with Purpose" tag line, Nooyi recently succeeded in infiltrating one of the nation's most respected annual reports on obesity.
For the past seven years, a nonprofit called Trust for American's Health (TFAH) has published a report called F as in Fat, which updates the grim obesity statistics from around the nation, culling information mostly from respectable government sources.
In this year's edition, released in June, smack in the middle of the sobering data and potential policy solutions came an unexpected new entry: a two-page missive penned by Indra Nooyi herself. As you might expect, it reads more like a press release than scientific analysis: "We firmly believe companies have a responsibility to provide consumers with more information and more choices so they can make better decisions," Nooyi wrote.
Even more troubling, this report is co-published by its funder, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the nation's largest health care foundation. One of RWJF's most ambitious goals is to "reverse the childhood obesity epidemic by 2015."
So how did the nation's largest health care funder and a prominent public health organization let the nation's largest food company get airtime in their annual obesity report? Good question.
Reporter Melanie Warner, who published an excellent piece about this at BNET (" Obesity Report Chronicles the Sad State of America -- and Tells Us How Great PepsiCo Is"), asked TFAH to explain itself. Here is what she learned:
Laura Segal, spokesperson for the Trust for America's Health, says that having Nooyi's comments in the report was an innocent attempt to have the "industry perspective" and not the result of any shady financial relationship. "We reached out to a number of companies and Pepsi was the first one to respond. We want to represent a range of opinions and the industry segment is a significant component of dealing with obesity," says Segal.
In contrast, Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, sees this incident as part of a disturbing trend:
There seems to be a growing interest among public health organizations to appear "unbiased" when discussing obesity prevention by providing a forum for industry. It would be the equivalent of providing a forum for the tobacco industry to espouse their "personal responsibility" message in reports on smoking-related deaths.
Harold Goldstein also notes what Nooyi conveniently left out:
She doesn't mention the highly sophisticated multimillion dollar national marketing and lobbying campaign they have undertaken to promote themselves as good corporate citizens and undermine efforts to establish state and local policies to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, which have been the single leading contributor to the obesity epidemic.