The billion-dollar business to sell us crappy food
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At the turn of the last century, the father of public relations, Edward Bernays, launched the Celiac Project, whose medical professionals recommended bananas to benefit celiac disease sufferers. Those pitched on the sweet fruit’s miraculous properties didn’t know the project was actually created for the United Fruit Co., the largest trader of bananas in the world.
The creation of front groups — independent-sounding but industry-backed organizations — as a public relations strategy dates at least as far back as Bernays’ day. But a new report by Kari Hamerschlag, a senior program manager at the environmental nonprofit Friends of the Earth; Stacy Malkan, a co-founder of the food industry watchdog U.S. Right to Know; and me shows that such tactics are continuing with ever more scope and scale today.
The report, released today, exposes the growth of food-industry-sponsored front groups and other covert communication tactics in the past few years. While food industry spin is not new, we’re seeing an unprecedented level of spending and deployment of an ever wider array of PR tactics. We argue this rise of industrial food spin is a direct response to mounting public concerns about industrial agriculture as well as a growing interest in sustainable food and groundswell for organic products.
-Al Jazeera, 6/30/2015