Lancet Commentary Questions Food and Beverage Philanthropy
A Lancet commentary supportive of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s
effort to curb the size of sugar-sweetened beverages sold in the city
questions whether food and beverage industry partnerships with minority
advocacy organizations are “merely a smokescreen to hide the continued
targeting of the most susceptible consumers.” Comparing “Big Soda” to “Big
Tobacco,” the article refers to a recent article, summarized in Issue 472 of this
Update, to suggest that the answer to the question is yes. The article also
cites the Access to Nutrition Index, which ranked companies, in part, on their
“nutrition-related commitments, performance and disclosure practices,” to
call for continued industry monitoring with the aim of reinforcing “the best
business practices.” The Index is discussed in Issue 475 of this Update.
In a related development, Center for Science in the Public Interest Executive Director Michael Jacobson has authored an article for Huffington Post arguing that soft drink companies learned from cigarette manufacturers how to use philanthropy to enlist allies who would oppose initiatives, such as the Bloomberg sugar-sweetened beverage restrictions, that could affect corporate profits. Jacobson also discusses corporate grants to public health organizations that he claims influenced their less-than-strident positions on soft-drink consumption. He concludes, “Food isn’t tobacco. . . . But the playbook is the same, and we ignore it at our peril.” See Huffington Post, March 20, 2013; The Lancet, March 23, 213.