Diabetes UK, a leading charity in the UK for people affected by diabetes, just signed a £500,000 contract with Britvic, a marketer and distributor of Pepsico products like Pepsi, Mountain Dew and Gatorade. The two companies agreed to a three-year long partnership that will help fund the health charity’s education programs. In a Britvic press release the two firms announce that they will be working together to actively support those living with and at risk of diabetes.
Diabetes UK has warned about the sugary foods and drinks that it believes are fueling the diabetes epidemic. As a result, the negative reaction to its partnership with a soda company has been swift. Doctors and campaigners around the country are describing the deal as “appalling”. Dr. Simon Tobin, a GP from Merseyside, says:
I’ve been diabetic lead at my practice for 25 years. I cannot recommend my patients are supported by Diabetes UK. How can they trust a charity that has partnered with Britvic?
Diabetes UK’s chief executive, Chris Askew is defending the deal, saying:
We recognise that partnerships — and the opportunities they present both to influence industry, and to amplify our work — are one of the key ways for us to make change happen.
Diabetes UK certainly needs funding to make a dent in the raging diabetes epidemic, but funding from a company that profits from a cause of type 2 diabetes — heavily marketed products high in sugar — sets up an obvious conflict of interest. Some organizations, like the Dietician’s Association of Australia, have severed ties with the food industry in order to avoid unwanted influence from companies selling unhealthy products. Perhaps Diabetes UK should do the same.