OTTAWA (May 23, 2000) -- The Canadian Food Information Council (CFIC) is hiding the fact that it is sponsored by major food corporations, charges the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a health-advocacy organization with offices in Washington and Ottawa.
According to CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson, CFIC issues statements that support food-industry positions but do not disclose that it is funded by Monsanto, Coca-Cola, Procter and Gamble, Unilever, Kellogg, Kraft, and other companies.
A May 8th press release, for instance, told journalists that activists may try to dominate discussions and undermine a healthy debate on the subject [of genetically modified foods] at the Codex Food Labelling Committee meeting in Ottawa. The release then recommended that reporters contact government and industry organizations to ensure that different perspectives of the debate can be presented to Canadians.
On April 1, another CFIC press release encouraging journalists to talk to industry about biotechnology hid the group's corporate sponsorship. That release was timed to coincide with protests planned for that weekend.
CFIC literature says that, in addition to major funding from the food industry, it has a one-year grant from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
CFIC seeks to mimic the work of the International Food Information Council (IFIC) in the United States. IFIC also is sponsored by Monsanto, Coca-Cola, Procter and Gamble, and other giant food and chemical manufacturers, said Jacobson. IFIC, too, often hides the fact that it is a creature of the food industry. Its newsletter, Insights, for instance, does not disclose that industry sponsorship.
IFIC has dismissed concerns about the safety of monosodium glutamate (MSG), caffeine, artificial sweeteners, irradiation, and other controversial food additives and processes.
We're all for vigorous public debate, stated Bill Jeffery, CSPI's Ottawa-based Public Policy Analyst. But journalists and the public are deceived when industry creates phony organizations that pretend to be objective. CFIC calls itself a national not-for-profit organization that works in partnership with the health and scientific community nationally. It would be more accurate to say that it is an industry organization that works in partnership with food companies to handle the press and public.