International Food Information Council
This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
The International Food Information Council (IFIC) describes its mission as being to "communicate science-based information on food safety and nutrition to health and nutrition professionals, educators, journalists, government officials and others providing information to consumers."
In reality, IFIC is a public relations arm of the food, beverage and agricultural industries, which provide the bulk of its funding. Its staff members hail from industry groups such as the Sugar Association and the National Soft Drink Association, and it has repeatedly led the defense for controversial food additives including monosodium glutamate, aspartame (Nutrasweet), food dyes, and olestra. It also runs the corporate-friendly website, Kidnetic.com, with games and recipes for kids.
While the group's name implies that it operates internationally, on its website IFIC states that its primary focus is the U.S. "Based in Washington, DC, the IFIC Foundation and IFIC focus primarily on U.S. issues. It also participates in an informal network of independent food information organizations in Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada, Japan and Latin America," it states.
IFIC has been working on genetically modified food issues since 1992 and has a lot of pro-genetically modified organism (GMO) and food industry propaganda on its website, including the following:
- "New Survey Finds Americans as Positive as Ever on Food Biotechnology"
- "Food Biotechnology--Benefits for Developing Countries"
- "New Research Shows Consumers Willing to Try Irradiated (Cold Pasteurized) Foods; Taste Very Important"
- "Consumers, Health Experts Desire Benefits of Biotech Foods and Concur with Current FDA Labeling Policy" [Current FDA policy does not require labeling of genetically modified foods.]
IFIC has used the Wirthlin Group, a Republican political and polling firm, to carry out many of its surveys on public attitudes. Tom Hoban, a sociology professor, has also been involved with survey design on IFIC-sponsored polls intended to measure public support for biotech foods.
In 1992, IFIC hired Dr. G. Clotaire Rapaille, a Jungian psychoanalyst, to advise them on ways to win public support for GM foods. Rapaille provided a list of "words to use" and "words to lose" when talking about the topic. The "words to use" included terms such as beauty, bounty, children, choices, cross-breeding, diversity, earth, farmer, flowers, fruits, future generations, hard work, heritage, improved, organic, purity, quality, soil, tradition and wholesome. "Words to lose" included: biotechnology, chemical, DNA, economic, experiments, industry, laboratory, machines, manipulate, money, pesticides, profit, radiation, safety and scientists.
Attacking Raw Milk
On June 27, 2012, IFIC's food safety and defense manager, Katie Burns -- a public relations professional whose job description also consists of "risk/crisis communications" -- wrote an article attacking raw milk, entitled "Raw Milk: Clear Risks, No Benefits." The article repeats the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's sometimes misleading oversimplifications, such as, "pasteurization DOES kill harmful bacteria" (in fact, pasteurization kills some but not all harmful bacteria; for example, Mycobacterium paratuberculosis, the bacteria which cause Johne's disease in cattle and are linked to Crohn's disease in humans, may survive current pasteurization conditions and are present in one in ten ruminants passing through livestock auction facilities in the U.S) and "pasteurization DOES NOT reduce milk's nutritional value" (in fact, although the effects are complex, a 2003 University of Minnesota study found that pasteurization lowers levels of thiamine, vitamin E, biotin, and vitamin B-12, for example).
The blog entry, which was later cross-posted to Food Safety News and other anti-raw milk publications, does not disclose that members of IFIC's Board of Trustees include two representatives from Mars, Incorporated, as well as representatives from Coca-Cola, General Mills, and Kraft Foods. According to a 1996 University of Wisconsin study, large cheesemakers, including Kraft Foods, often sell cheese at a loss in the lightly traded market to lower the prices they pay for the millions of pounds of milk and cheese they buy elsewhere. Under federal rules, milk prices are tied directly to the price of cheese milk at the exchange. The ability of small farmers to earn a higher price for milk sold directly to local eaters without having to ship to a large processing facility for pasteurization and bottling may present a long-term risk to Kraft Food's business model of low fluid milk prices.
As of June 2013, members include:
- Chair, Robert Gravani
- Vice Chair, Jeanne Goldberg
- Secretary, Nancy Childs
- Treasurer, James Conlan
- President and CEO, David Schmidt
- Executive Director, Kimberly Reed
- IFIC Foundation
- 1100 Connecticut Avenue N.W., Suite 430
- Washington D.C. 20036
- Phone: (202) 296-6540
- Fax: (202) 296-6547
- Email: foodinfo At ific.org
- Website: http://www.ific.org/
- Website: http://www.foodinsight.org/
Articles and Resources
Related SourceWatch Articles
- International Food Information Council, About the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation", organizational website, accessed March 2008, archived by the WayBack Machine February 22, 2008.
- Kidnetic, Kidnetic.com website, accessed October 2008.
- Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, "Liquid Truth: Advice from the Spinmeisters," PR Watch, Fourth Quarter 2000.
- International Food Information Council, Katie Burns, organizational biography, accessed July 2012
- Irene R. Grant, Does Mycobacterium paratuberculosis Survive Current Pasteurization Conditions?, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, July 1998, 64(7), pp. 2760–2761
- Gao A, Mutharia L, Chen S, Rahn K, and Odumeru J., Effect of pasteurization on survival of Mycobacterium paratuberculosis in milk, Journal of Dairy Science, December 2002, 85(12), pp. 3198-205
- National Johne's Education Initiative, Johne's Information Central, organizational website, accessed July 2012
- Katie Burns, Raw Milk"Clear Risks, No Benefits," Food Insight, IFIC blog, June 27, 2012
- Suzanne Driessen, University of Minnesota, Raw Milk vs. Pasteurization Debate Revisited, research university publication, September 2003
- International Food Information Council, Board of Trustees, organizational website, accessed July 2012
- Willard F. Mueller, Bruce W. Marion, Maqbool H. Sial, and F.E. Geithman, Cheese Pricing: A Study of the National Cheese Exchange, March 1996.
- , International Food Information Council Foundation, Board of Trustees, Foundation Website, accessed June 5th, 2013.