Pepsi hires junk food nemesis

Stephen Beard May 30, 2007
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Pepsi hires junk food nemesis

Stephen Beard May 30, 2007
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

LISA NAPOLI: Fizzy drink maker Pepsi’s been known to hire celebrities to jazz up its image, who hasn’t? Today there are reports the company’s put a more infamous character on the payroll. Marketplace’s Stephen Beard says he’s known as an archenemy of the junk food industry.

STEPHEN BEARD: On the face of it, this looks pretty odd ’cause the man they’ve hired is Alan Milburn. Not just a former health minister, but one with a very sharp tongue and he’s used it against the junk food industry. He once famously accused the industry of helping to cause a health problem worse than the AIDS epidemic. So Alan Milburn clearly won’t be working in the PR department of Pepsi.

NAPOLI: But is this a “keep you enemies closer” kind of thing? What do they think this guy is gonna do for them?

BEARD: Well he’s gonna be on a nutrition advisory board for Pepsi. The company is under a lot of pressure to make their products healthier. Alan Milburn and other members of this advisory board will make suggestions on how Pepsi’s products can be further improved from the point of view of health and environmental sustainability.

NAPOLI: So Stephen you don’t think that this is what we talk about a lot when we look at companies that institute strict environmental policies or launch PR campaigns to show how green they are? You don’t think this is the sort of nutritional equivalent of greenwashing?

BEARD: Well it is interesting that they have hired him. At one level it does look as if they’re trying to co-opt one of the industry’s sternest critics, but I think that’s unlikely because of, given the amount of money they’re paying him. It’s £25,000 which in dollars sounds quite a lot these days, $50,000, but really in terms of purchasing power not a whole lot of money. It’s about the average industrial wage here. Knowing Alan Milburn who’s a guy, has a reputation for integrity, I think it would take a lot more than £25,000 a year to co-opt him.

NAPOLI: Pepsi by the way makes more than 200 brands around the world.

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