Tackling Obesity: How Companies Use Education to Build Trust. Briefing

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Breastfeeding provides an ideal window of opportunity for obesity prevention and may help in the development of taste receptors and appetite control.

 The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considered that there are two potential, cost-effective interventions that can be put into place immediately to deal with the childhood obesity epidemic: decreased television viewing and breastfeeding promotion.

“Artificially fed infants consume 30,000 more calories than breastfed infants by 8 months of age” (equivalent to 120 chocolate bars - 4 a week). Student Study Guide for Breastfeeding and Human Lactation KG Auerbach, J Riordan - 1993 

As pressure builds to stop junk food advertising to children, many companies are focussing attention on nutrition and health education in an attempt to re-establish themselves as producers of healthy food. By  building public trust in this image they can divert attention from the continued aggressive marketing of unhealthy foods.  The  education materials and facilities that are produced as a result present an even more complex problem than straightforward advertising because they blur the boundaries between advertising, marketing and education.

Although  individual employees often have philanthropic motives, corporations themselves have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to maximise profits, so the deal will be done with multiple motives: 

For example, companies will hope to:







  • involve potential critics in partnerships and so discourage  them from speaking out;
  • discourage open debate about sponsors
  • undermine the independence of monitoring schemes;
  • use education facilities as a channel for commercial propaganda which undermines public health messages;
  • project a healthy, responsible corporate image and so gain the trust of children, parents and teachers;
  • distort the curriculum in favour of business interests - promoting a self regulation and partnership approach to marketing rather than regulation;
  • use the ‘halo’ effect as evidence of Corporate Social Responsibility 
  • divert attention from/‘engineer consent’ for actions which are anti-social and which harm sustainable development, the environment and human survival. 





Schools Feb 12.pdf3.6 MB