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Food Industry Front Groups Peddle Dangerous Myths

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Politics and Democracy page and our Food Safety Research Center page.

Hormones and antibiotics in food won't harm you and MSG enhances the taste of food.

These are some of the confusing and misleading messages that consumers are inundated with every day under the guise of 'factual evidence' peddled by alleged consumer and food safety groups.

A recent report titled Best Public Relations Money Can Buy: A Guide to Food Industry Front Groups (IRS) published by the Center for Food Safety last week describes how Big Food and Big Ag "hide behind friendly-sounding organizations" in order to fool the media, policymakers and general public into trusting their companies and products.

As consumers become increasingly aware of the myriad problems associated with the "highly industrialized and overly-processed food system"-including the presence of antibiotics and hormones in animal products, the impact of pesticide use on both the environment and consumers, and the exploitation of animals and food system employees-the corporate food industry has had to result to alternative ways of countering the narrative.

"Instead of cleaning up its act, corporate lobbyists are trying to control the public discourse," writes public health attorney and report author, Michele Simon. "As a result, industry spin is becoming more prevalent and aggressive."

Under names such as the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, the Center for Consumer Freedom, and the Alliance to Feed the Future, major corporations are able to spread their message through massive media campaigns which include advertisements, published research, op-ed articles, and TV appearances.

These campaigns often employ such tactics as "astroturfing" (or posing to represent a grassroots group), discrediting their critics, paying for research, and scaremongering in order to counter the debate.

For example, Simon gives the example of the International Food Information Council (IFIC) which is funded by major food, pesticide, and biotech companies including Kraft, McDonald's, Nestle, PepsiCo, Monsanto, Cargill, Bayer CropScience, and Dupont:

In 2011, IFIC moderated a panel at this event called, "How Risky is Our Food? Clarifying the Controversies of Chemical Risks" in which the take-away message was not to worry about pesticides, and anybody who tells you otherwise is scaremongering and non-scientifically valid. At the 2012 conference last fall, IFIC was back again, with representatives on four separate panels, including dispelling any concerns about food additives.