Candy-charity partnerships are “sugar washing”

Just after Halloween this year, The Lancet called out UNICEF Canada for partnering with a candy company, Cadbury, whose high fat, high sugar products are the antithesis of the child health and nutrition mission of the international agency.  According to the journal, UNICEF Canada got $500,000 from the company for Africa housing projects. In exchange Cadbury used the UNICEF logo and aligns itself with a good cause, which drives positive corporate profile and sales.  With good reason the journal and subsequent editorials said this partnership is irresponsible, and questioned the charity’s credibility.

This week a news item in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) shone more light on the partnership, quoting food security expert Marion Nestle who called the practice “sugar washing.”  Like the greenwashing and pinkwashing tactics of corporations sponsoring environmental and breast cancer charities, candy company-charity partnerships create a lucrative “halo effect” for the company interested in improving sales, she said.

The news item also raises an important point the editors at PLoS Medicine have discussed a lot– that, unlike the tobacco industry, the food industry has not received the type of scrutiny it should.

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