Deborah Cohen, on a BMJ blog, writes:
Nestlé has just announced a three year partnership with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF)—an umbrella organisation representing national diabetes societies from around the world— as part of its contribution to the fight against non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Such diseases include cardiovascular disease, cancer respiratory illness and diabetes.
The IDF is slightly more coy about the partnership publicly. Nestlé has announced the collaboration on the homepage of its website, but the company’s logo has been simply added to the IDF website in amongst the other supporters of projects—mainly drug and medical technology companies.
The move is in sharp contrast to the current sentiment within other parts of the global nutrition movement. Organisers of the World Public Health Nutrition conference held in Rio this month declined to take corporate sponsorship from companies such as Nestlé. Indeed, in the run up to the UN summit on non-communicable disease (NCD) last September—in which the IDF played a prominent role— the notion of public-private partnerships in tackling disease caused a rift between some non-governmental organisations and groups representing businesses.
But the IDF believes there is a role for partnership: “There is clear consensus that the conflict of interest between public health advocates and tobacco companies is fundamental and irreconcilable,” a spokesperson told the BMJ, adding: “IDF believes that the food industry cannot be approached in the same way. Smoking is harmful in all its forms and at any level of consumption. The same cannot be said for food. Food is a basic necessity, and the right to adequate food is an enshrined human right.”
But campaigners are worried that education allows marketing through the back door. In some countries were they will not be able to brand teaching materials, but in other countries they will. They also believe that messages will be filtered–they’ll never say restrict the amount of junk food you eat.
Indeed, the company removed a page from an educational book in Russia following a complaint from campaigners. Its “Programme about correct nutrition – working notebook for school children” showed a mother telling her child that eating chocolate rather than a sandwich before an exam would help her manage the difficult exercises.