Oxymoron – McDonald\’s, Mars and Pepsi author health policy


Companies like McDonald\’s, Pepsi, Mars and Kentucky Fried Chicken have been invited by the United Kingdom Department of Health to help write government policy on obesity and diet-related disease.  Other health problems being targeted are alcohol being headed-up by the lobby group of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. There are many opponents of the idea to have companies that seem to be the source of the problem, be responsible for fixing the problem. They likened the idea to “putting the tobacco industry in charge of smoke-free spaces.”  More appropriate sounding members are National Heart Forum and Fitness Industry Association for the physical activity group. Can there be a consequential union between the interests of industry and public health?

\"\"Companies like Mars support many more products than their obviously known image. According to mars.com the company has six business segments: Chocolate, Petcare, Wrigley, Food, Drinks, and Symbioscience. Some of the other well known brands of Mars are PEDIGREE®, ROYAL CANIN® WHISKAS®, Banfield, The Pet Hospital, and Dentastix pet care; even UNCLE BEN\’S® rice is one of their products.

A real surprise – Mars owns Seeds of Change. The Seeds of Change Research Farm and Gardens were founded in 1989 in Gila, New Mexico. According to the website, the company devotes 1% of its net sales toward sustainable organic farming initiatives. Its products do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and are not irradiated. The family-owned, private business with Quaker roots is in a partnership with Conservation International.  The 1% Fund supports the Environmental Working Group, the Organic Trade Association, the Organic Center, and the Organic Farming Research Foundation.

McDonalds aka Mickey D been around since 1955. Ray Kroc bought the exclusive rights to the McDonald’s name from brothers Dick and Mac McDonald in 1960. McDonalds’ positive support to the community comes by way of The Ronald McDonald House program which provides a residence near hospitals for families who need a place to stay while their child receives medical care. The Ronald McDonald Family Room program offers a relaxed place for family members to rest inside the hospital, very near the child’s bedside.  The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program provides crucial medical, dental and educational assistance to children annually.

Kelloggs the cereal company is an active participant in the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF), a national, multi-year effort designed to help reduce obesity – especially childhood obesity – by 2015 according to the website. Besides the cereal and cookie products, Kellogg also offers Morningstar Farms products. Morningstar Farms offers products like the veggie maple sausage. Kellogg also owns the Gardenburger brand.  Other vegetarian foods products owned by Kellogg include Worthington® & Loma Linda®.

Pepsi Company owns a multitude of brands other than sugary drinks. The company owns the Quaker cereal brand, Tropicana juice brand and even Gatorade. Gatorade was the end result of research done at the University of Florida to keep the football team from wilting. The fluids and electrolytes replacement drink was discovered in 1965 and name after the Gator university football team.

One of Pepsi’s PR release declares their commitment to the prevention of obesity – Pepsi Co Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi defended the company’s involvement by stating, “To suggest PepsiCo and other food companies should not have a voice in the discussion of how to address global obesity seems counterproductive” – The Critical Role of the Food Industry in the Obesity Debate.

So can the Department of Health’s decision to include the food industry be defended?  Pepsi CEO says so. He mentioned efforts include reducing portion sizes. What no more Super Size at Mickey? Developing business models to transfer focus from volume to nutrition quality and improving labeling = smaller packaging.  Smaller packaging means that the cost of packaging per ounce of product is higher.  The food industry is helping us by giving us less for the same or higher price? Look at your package sizes, a pound of coffee could be 11-13ozs, cereal range from 22-25ozs, and processed rice is packaged from 6-8ozs.  As soon as you see a package shrinking, visit the brand website and drop them a note.  With proper labeling you can control your portion size yourself.

How many ways can it be said: Latin: \’Ovem lupo commitere\’ (to set a wolf to guard sheep). Don\’t let the fox guard the chicken coop.  Don\’t set a wolf to watch the sheep………

Work Cited/Resources:

  1. Conservation International (2007, March 20). Conservation Groups Join Forces To Promote Environmentally Sustainable Cacao Industry. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 16, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2007/03/070319175847.htm
  2. http://performancenotes.pepsicoblogs.com/2010/07/the-critical-role-of-the-food-industry-in-the-obesity-debate/
  3. http://tinyurl.com/2ac9e2s
  4. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1329395/McDonalds-KFC-Pepsi-help-set-government-health-policy-obesity.html#ixzz15C9ft9Y5
  5. http://www.economist.com/node/3285898
  6. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/12/mcdonalds-pepsico-help-health-policy
  7. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/06/17/smaller-packaging-equals_n_107507.html