“Very candid”

Pepsi’s Chief Scientific Officer addresses #Sbfail:

Earlier this week, PepsiCo’s blog, Food Frontiers, was added to ScienceBlogs.com so we could begin open discussions about the role science can play in finding solutions to global nutrition challenges.

Mmmm, sorta. The blog was indeed added (then deleted), but a more accurate phrasing would be, “PepsiCo’s bought ad space masquerading as a blog on ScienceBlogs.com.” This is different from the path most blogs take in order to be added to Sb, and the failure to make this distinction is unfortunate, and would have been more unfortunate if this piece had run at Sb, rather than on a blog hosted by PepsiCo.

Since the announcement of our participation in ScienceBlogs.com, we’ve heard some very candid feedback from the ScienceBlogs community. …the … blog has been removed from ScienceBlogs. …we agree with this decision … the best approach is to take a step back and first examine the role industry scientists, such as myself, can play in the discussion about nutrition science within the larger scientific community.

Yes. Candid. That’s what’s expected of bloggers. This is a poor fit with corporate PR of the sort that Pepsiblog has run thus far, and of the sort that we had every expectation would be foisted off on the new site at Scienceblogs.

And yes, industry scientists have insights to share, both about the science their working on and on the different cultures of industry versus academia. I’d be interested in seeing such a blog, and in knowing about a company so progressive that it let its scientists present an inside look at life in their labs (edited to protect trade secrets, but with no other editing by corporate PR or legal teams. Nothing about the Pepsiblog prospectus indicated that this would happen.

Furthermore, a credible blog on nutrition science would have to also include voices of public health researchers looking at the consistent and blindingly obvious evidence that PepsiCo’s topselling products are the causes of major epidemics, including obesity and diabetes in the US. Yet the posts about obesity at Pepsiblog are unceasing in talking only about the wonderful things Pepsi plans to do to address obesity, never acknowledging that the problem is integral to their product. For instance, this post by former WHO executive director Derek Yach is a love letter to the food industry, with no particular discussion of the science of the obesity epidemic, or the science behind anything Pepsi actually plans to do.

It’s unfortunate, because there are some impressive people on PepsiCo’s scientific staff. But either they got lobotomies when they went to work for Pepsi, or most of the content is drafted by lawyers and the PR department, not by the scientists. And that’s not a blog that belongs on ScienceBlogs, even as advertorial.

We knew going in that there would be real differences among scientists within and outside of industry. Our intent is to embrace that conversation, share what we’re doing, and have open discussions to learn from one another as we move toward real solutions. We look forward to engaging in those discussions in communities such as ScienceBlogs as well as here on Food Frontiers.

Which would be great, but there is no evidence that they actually plan to engage in discussion, rather than blogging by press release.

On a personal note, I joined PepsiCo as its Chief Scientific Officer because the company is committed to making a positive impact on global nutrition. In this role, I am responsible for focusing efforts and attention on nutrition science and solutions.

If that’s how Mehmood Khan, a well-respected scientist, gets personal, he needs to get out more. Blogging should all be personal, but even these personal sentences feel like someone else wrote them for him. Consider:

Since I joined the company, we’ve expanded our global research and development capability. Our network of leaders comes from diverse fields of classic nutrition science, epidemiology, endocrinology, molecular biology, agronomy and sensory science.

Yay, Pepsi! But you wanted to post this at ScienceBlogs. What are those scientists researching? What have their papers found? Are they free to publish papers that place blame on PepsiCo for public health crises? A blog should tell us this.

As we continue our work, I am enthusiastic about sharing insights while also hearing and learning from the larger scientific community online. That is why I would like to open an invitation to anyone interested in food and nutrition science to join the conversation on Food Frontiers.

But there is no conversation. The posts don’t invite comment, and lack any personality to converse with.

We will continue to talk about specific science, nutrition and global health policy topics – and we’ll open the floor to include more voices to help us best address them through science-based solutions.

I speak for all of us when I say; we look forward to productive and substantive dialogue.

I guess I’ll believe that when I see it.

If this, and the other content already up at PepsiBlog, is an indicator of what they planned to do on ScienceBlogs, they honestly didn’t get the point.

There is, I emphasize, a place for blogs about the science and policy of nutrition, of global malnutrition, and of obesity. Pepsi could show itself to be an enlightened and forward-thinking company if it hosted such a blog. But that is not what they created. They created a blog to whitewash their harmful effects on global health. And until they figure out how to create a blog that really does some soul-searching on the food industry’s responsibilities for these global crises, that doesn’t just make excuses and pass the buck, Pepsi will continue to get exactly the response it got here.

Comments

  1. #1 Jason G. Goldman
    July 9, 2010

    We knew going in that there would be real differences among scientists within and outside of industry.

    This is true, and interesting, but this is also not what that blog purported to cover. They were to talk about nutrition, and Pepsi’s supposed role in addressing it. Seems like a straw man, to me.

  2. #2 aidel
    July 9, 2010

    Word! One can’t use the word “Pepsi” in the same sentence with the word “nutrition” without a lot of negative words in between. Something tells me this would have never happened. Sb, you’ve added some seriously lame blogs in the past, but this beats anything I’ve ever seen. Somebody is smoking something (other than cigarettes — there’s an idea! the Marlboro blog) on company time.

  3. #3 Comrade PhysioProf
    July 10, 2010

    Corporations are legally obligated to make decisions that would be considered sociopathic if made by individual human beings. This is because the directors and officers of a corporation have a fiduciary obligation to maximize the profits of the shareholders, and if they make decisions on other bases–things like decency, charity, sympathy, intellectual honesty, etc–they will have the living shit sued out of them by the shareholders.

    While individuals within corporations may act from these bases, the corporation qua corporation simply cannot. That the management of ScienceBlogs fails to understand this is fucking pathetic. And this, by the way, also explains why a blog sponsored all or in part by corporate funds is fundamentally different from a blog created by a corporation. That the management of ScienceBlogs fails to understand this is also fucking pathetic.

  4. #4 saç ekimi
    July 12, 2010

    Hi all;
    A fatal flaw was that they failed to have any representative posts ready to go up when the blog went live.

    Had they done so, and had the content been surprisingly acceptable, the reception might have been better.

    Instead we get this “Hi! Welcome to ShillBlog!” (crickets) and everyone, quite reasonably, expects the worst.