Companies across the globe are beginning to address their sustainability principles and criteria. By making tangible positive changes, greenwashing may finally be fading away. Enter Hershey’s. The Hershey Company is the most recognized chocolate brand throughout the world and produces very well-known sugar-laden snacks such as Milk Duds and Jolly Ranchers. Recently, this chocolate confectioner became a sponsor with the American Dietetic Association, the largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The press release regarding the partnership states:
The Hershey Center for Health & Nutrition develops and supports cutting-edge scientific research for products and technologies to provide consumers with a range of snacking choices, and will collaborate with ADA on consumer and health professional initiatives including an innovative, national consumer-focused nutrition education campaign. The campaign will spotlight the expertise and experience of registered dietitians, the nation’s front-line food and nutrition professionals, in helping people achieve a healthy, personalized, balanced eating plan.”
The first issue that needs to be addressed is the validity of the ADA. With nearly 67,000 members, 75 % of ADA’s members are registered dieticians. Their website states that their mission is to empower members to be the nation’s food and nutrition leaders and optimize the nation’s health through food and nutrition. Additional sponsors of the ADA include PepsiCo, Coke, and Mars. Correct me if I am wrong, but having companies such as Coke and Hershey acting as your key sponsors could lead to a potential conflict of interests. Right?
Hershey’s top selling items include Twizzlers and Jolly Ranchers, both with top ingredients including corn syrup and sugar. In fact, most Hershey products contain high fructose corn syrup along with hydrogenated oils, ingredients that do not encompass healthy living. According to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy‘s recent report, mercury was found in 9 of 20 samples of commercial high fructose corn syrup. This list includes Hershey’s top selling Chocolate Syrup. Several years ago, the FDA forced Hershey’s to re-label some of their products from saying “milk chocolate” and “made with chocolate” to “chocolate candy” and “chocolaty” because of their substitution of cocoa butter with vegetable oil to reduce material costs. How does a company like this become a sponsor of the ADA? As Heimi Weingarten of the Huffington Post puts it,
“And that folks, is the endgame for all the snack companies — to sell us more of their products, not less. If they have to spend millions to set up a scientific research center and contribute to doctors and dietitians as well, so be it. Marketing expenses.”
Alternatives to these options do exist though. Fair Trade Certified organic chocolate can be purchased via various companies including TransFair USA, Equal Exchange, Alter Eco, Global Exchange and Sweet Earth Organics. As stated by Triple Pundit’s Bill Debenedetto in Mars Enters the World of Sustainability, companies involved in the food sector are aligning with NGOs such as the Rainforest Alliance to bring sustainable practices into their products.