Is Your Thanksgiving Dinner Smoking?: Activists Boycott Philip Morris's Kraft Foods
BOSTON, Nov. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Kraft Foods may be promoting itself as a ``Thanksgiving Holiday Helper'' on its website and urging consumers to make its products part of their holiday meals, but thousands of US households will be boycotting the brand this
``You won't find Kraft Macaroni & Cheese on my Thanksgiving table,'' says Mildred M. Wolff of Cokato, Minnesota. ``I'm distressed by how Philip Morris markets tobacco to kids and manipulates Congress to protect tobacco profits. Until they make some changes, I'm boycotting their food products, including Kraft.''
INFACT launched the Kraft Boycott in 1994, challenging the tobacco industry to stop tobacco marketing and promotion that appeals to children, stop spreading tobacco addiction internationally, and stop interfering in public policy on issues of tobacco and health. Under investigation by the World Health Organization and fined this month for improper lobbying practices in New York State, Philip Morris is increasingly a target of criticism for its methods of influence-peddling. The corporation has been the largest donor of soft money to political parties in the last two federal elections, and had at least 208 lobbyists in 44 states in 1999.
``Philip Morris depends on the friendly face of its Kraft Foods division to shore up its public image,'' says INFACT Executive Director Kathryn Mulvey. ``Thanksgiving is a key season for Kraft's family-oriented marketing strategies. But the tobacco industry, led by Kraft's parent corporation, has caused enormous suffering for the families of the 400,000 people who have died from tobacco-related illness in the US this year.'' The Kraft Boycott is growing especially rapidly among schools and religious institutions, Mulvey notes.
Well over 500 student and faculty boycotters on seven campuses coast to coast phoned Kraft Foods in just one day this month. ``Kraft's phone lines were clogged with callers protesting the spread of tobacco addiction to children overseas by Kraft's parent corporation. At the peak of the call-in, callers were put on hold for up to 30 minutes before speaking with a Kraft representative,'' says Nora Wilson, a junior at the University of North Carolina.
Students on campuses from Chicago to Chapel Hill have recently organized rallies and counter-recruitment efforts as Kraft representatives arrived to interview potential employees. Student boycotters will also distribute hundreds of Boycott Kraft bumper stickers during the weekend before Thanksgiving, enabling holiday travelers to spread the word about the Boycott.
As a November 29 Business Week cover story on Philip Morris notes, the effects of the Kraft Boycott are felt within the corporation. Over 150 organizations have endorsed INFACT's Kraft Boycott, including ninety-one faith-based institutions, and both public and private schools. From Mount St. Mary's Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas deciding to keep Kraft products out of its lunchrooms, to local congregations publishing newsletter articles, distributing ``Boycott Kraft'' bumper stickers, and writing letters to Kraft executives expressing support for the Boycott, the campaign is gathering steam as the holidays near.
``Members of my congregation were so glad to join the Kraft Boycott when I spoke about it in a Sunday service,'' says Ruth Fassett of Newport Beach, California, an active member of St. Mark's Presbyterian Church. ``They wanted to do something to hold Philip Morris accountable. Many didn't even realize that Kraft Foods is a part of Philip Morris.''
Known for its successful boycotts of Nestle and General Electric, INFACT works to stop life-threatening abuses by transnational corporations and increase their accountability to people around the world. ``The Kraft Boycott is tapping the power of consumers to bring about concrete changes at Philip Morris,'' says Mulvey. ``Consumers can say no to serving food tainted by close association with Marlboro. This Thanksgiving, more households than ever will be forgoing Kraft products on their holiday tables.''