We believe it is important to be familiar with past examples of controversies involving Big Food and health organizations.
This 2009 article from the Columbia Journalism Review — titled “Dr. Coca-Cola on Call” — touches on hefty payments from Coca-Cola to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) to help fund an educational “Consumer Alliance” program.
As Trudy Lieberman, the author of the piece explains:
“Being a partner with a group like the family doctors, which stands for the public good, automatically spruces up Coke’s image and helps stave off unwanted legislation, like a tax on sodas to help fund health coverage for the uninsured.
It’s called “innocence by association,” a tactic used by food and tobacco companies to deflect criticism and reframe any inference that their products cause bad health outcomes. What makes this year’s association so unseemly is all the talk about prevention, obesity, and diabetes, and the cost of the disease in the context of health reform. Let’s hear it for more health reform hypocrisy.”
Not surprisingly — and very coincidentally — the educational materials funded by Coca-Cola’s money omitted soda from the criticism targeted at fast food, dessert, and physical inactivity.
This is a prime example of how associations with Big Food and Big Soda inhibit public health messaging. These partnerships ultimately provide good PR to industry and very little benefit to the public.