Health experts have slammed partnerships between Nestle and Jenny Craig, McDonald's and Weight Watchers, and Domino's Pizza and the weight-loss show 'The Biggest Loser' for trying to make brands famous for selling burgers, fries and lollies appear more healthy.
Experts claimed that junk food companies are making customers fat, and then sell them the cure, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
AdvertisementThey argue that deals between producers of junk foods and slimming groups and health charities are allowing the industry to cash in on both ends of the obesity epidemic.
Jane Martin, of the Australia's Obesity Policy Coalition, called this "weightwashing" - a tactic to convince consumers the fast-food industry was responding to the obesity epidemic, in the same way "greenwashing" allowed polluting businesses to appear environmentally responsible.
"Junk food manufacturers are at the forefront of this strategy, which is similar to what we have already seen adopted by the tobacco and oil industries," Martin said.
"It gives them the veneer of corporate social responsibility," he added.
Nutritionist Rosemary Stanton said deals between the two kinds of companies toyed with the emotions of people who wanted to support a worthy cause.
"These companies are not interested in health; they're interested in marketing and selling more product," the nutritionist added.
However, the companies reject the allegation, saying the associations are meant to offer more healthy choices and are a genuine attempt to be part of the obesity solution.
Global food giant Nestle said it was "cynical" and "a complete misrepresentation of our business" to claim that its takeover of weight-loss firm Jenny Craig this month was an attempt to buy its way into health policy discussions.
Nestle had a long-term commitment to nutrition and health, corporate affairs manager Fran Hernon said.
Jenny Craig managing director Amy Smith also defended the deal.
"Nestle have made Lean Cuisine and low-fat yoghurts forever. It's over simplifying it just to say there's a conspiracy going on," Smith said.
"If you look at the reasons why people are gaining so much weight, it comes from a lot more than soft drink and chocolate," he added.