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Guide to Food Industry Front Groups - The Best Public Relations Money Can Buy

The International Food Information Council Foundation has recently released their 3rd edition of the “Food Biotechnology: A Communicator’s Guide to Improving Understanding” report. It may seem that the report is helpful and reasonable but in fact it’s a cut-throat PR machine that includes a range of trustees. Just to give you a heads-up, their most famous names are Mars, Coca-Cola, and Kraft Foods.

As a response to their methods, a brand new report was authorized. It came from the Center for Food Safety and it is meant to expose highly-sophisticated PR strategies and well-funded organizations looking to protect the food industry. “The Best Public Relations Money Can Buy” is meant to describe the devious way Big Ag and Big Food hide behind organizations like the Center for Consumer Freedom and the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.

U.S. Farmers Ranchers Alliance food group

The main purpose is to trick policymakers, the general public and the media into believing that these sources can be trusted, in spite of their PR agenda that’s been intensively funded. Together with the increasing concern over detrimental impacts on such an overly processed and highly industrialized food system, the industry has now a very serious PR issue in their hands. Rather than clear its name, community lobbyists are doing their best to run over the public discourse. The end result is an extremely aggressive and prevalent industry spin.

The International Food Information Council is also responsible with the infiltration of professional conferences like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics meeting, the country’s trade organization for licensed dieticians. It was in 2011 when IFIC was a moderator for an event known as “How Risky is Our Food? Clarifying the Controversies of Chemical Risks”, where goal was not to make people worry about pesticides. Last fall, IFIC came back with avid representatives from 4 different panels, and they even tried to dispel the concerns related to food additives.

Leaving aside IFIC, there are other front groups that managed to take the lead, including the notorious Center for Consumer Freedom, which started in the 90s when they founded the tobacco giant known as Philip Morris. Recent controversies in NYC related to reducing sugary beverages, CCF managed to take out whole-page ads in main newspapers. They even mocked Mayor Bloomberg and they dressed him as a woman with the message “New Yorkers need a Mayor and not a Nanny”.

International Food Information Council food group

Scaremongering and name-calling are extremely effective ways to distract attention from the main problem: public health. Big Soda additionally invented a whole new front group meant to do the bidding, and the name was “New Yorkers for Beverage Choices”. The campaign pretended to represent the people, when the goal was to get funding from the American Beverage Association, a lobbying arm of a merciless soft drink industry.

When you’re depending on a powerful front group to do your dirty job, companies such as PepsiCola and Coca-Cola get a free pass and they get to keep their names and reputations intact. The biotech industry, junk food companies and other big businesses, are trying to defend themselves against a nation that is dealing with a plethora of problems brought on by the industrialized food system, starting from environmental disaster to public health epidemics, and dreadful human exploitations. It’s like a testament to the success of the food movement that industries are responding with such well-funded and ground-breaking public relations efforts.

We cannot permit these deceptive and disingenuous strategies to undermine our excellent work. It’s crucial for policymakers, reporters, and the general public to get informed and learn exactly who’s behind the food industry’s front groups, and not fall into their traps and biased propaganda. We should switch again to organic and healthy foods rather than junk foods.

The Center for Food Integrity food group

“The Best Public Relations Money Can Buy” report can be extremely useful because it teaches us about new front groups that appear every single day. Using confusing names deliberately such as the Center for Food Integrity and the Alliance to Feed the Future, it becomes extremely challenging to set apart the good from the bad. Front groups are extremely smart, and their main goal is to confuse both the media and the people; they want us to assume their information is reliable and that it comes from a trusted source, when in fact everything is just a scam.

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