Debating Room - McFun - For Sale - Search - What's New? - Mailing List
Oct/Dec 2001 . Editorial . Food Magazine . UK
The Corporate Left
It isn't just New Labour that has been sponsored by McDonald's. The New Statesman - that journal of the old radical left from decades past - is the latest reputable institution to fall under the spell of junk-food sponsorship.
In this time of agricultural upheaval, the September issue of New Statesman contained a special 32-page supplement on 'How to turn rural crisis into sustainable agriculture and keep consumers happy'.
The contributors to this special supplement were a glittering array of the great and the good in the food world, including Minister for Agriculture Lord Whitty, Lord Haskins, coordinator of the government's Rural Recovery programme, Professors Tim Lang, Jules Pretty and Erik Millstone, and Joyce D'Silva, Director of Compassion in World Farming. The Food Commission's Kath Dalmeny also contributed an article to the supplement.
Not aware of a sponsorship deal, the Food Commission was delighted to be asked to contribute an article commenting on how food companies use labels and adverts to boost sales of unhealthy foods. A bitter irony.
On the day that the issue of the New Statesman hit the streets (24/09/01), we were called by The Daily Telegraph asking 'How do you feel to be sponsored by McDonald's?' 'Ridiculous!' we answered. 'We don't take sponsorship from the food industry.'
But the New Statesman does. The front cover of their supplement featured two familiar golden arches, with the words 'Sponsored by McDonald's'. Throughout the supplement, between articles from charities, governments and non-governmental organisations, were four pages of advertorial (that's editorial paid for by an advertiser) written by a freelance journalist hired by McDonald's.
Neither we, nor Tim Lang, nor Jules Pretty, nor Erik Millstone knew of the sponsorship when we submitted our text. We were all hopping mad. When The Food Commission complained that we did not want to be associated with a company that promoted its junk to children (we had given evidence at the McLibel trial on this point) the New Statesman told us 'The New Statesman is not promoted as a magazine for children.'
Our request to redirect our fee to the McLibel campaign was politely declined. Our complaint to New Statesman was not published. But if it had been it would, no doubt, have been on their letters page -- a page sponsored by Sainsbury's!
The Food Commission