‘Pinkwashing’ KFC

KFC has had a bad press of late. A while back, there was all that fuss about the extreme cruelty inflicted on the chickens by the Colonel’s employees, caught on camera by an undercover PETA crew. Then there’s the constant barrage of criticism directed at the unhealthiness of the food – an artery clogging combination of fat and salt. In an attempt to sort out its image problem, KFC has jumped on the breast cancer awareness wagon with their pink buckets, sales of which include a 50 cent donation to a breast cancer organisation, Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The problem is that a high intake of fried food increases the risk of developing breast cancer, and the American Institute for Cancer Research tells us that 60 to 70 per cent of cancers can be prevented with lifestyle changes, which include eating a predominantly plant based diet with minimally processed starchy staples. That sure ain’t buckets of fried chicken. Read more from the Huffington Post.

18 thoughts on “‘Pinkwashing’ KFC

  1. hufpo is notorious for its bad (science) writing + lack of fact checking…

    the colbert report did a good bit on the pink kfc buckets:
    http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/308102/april-29-2010/tip-wag—scientists—kfc

    on the plus side: this TED talk just aired by William Li and is described “as a new way to treat cancer: anti-angiogenesis, preventing the growth of blood vessels to a tumor.” it’s a nice talk with real, useful science and it’s here: http://www.ted.com/talks/william_li.html

  2. Yea, I found myself very confused to see KFC supporting Breast Cancer awareness, not that it’s bad, but the message is eat fried food to contribute to a fund to stop a disease in part caused by fried foods? Doesn’t make sense.

  3. Here’s a site (run by Breast Cancer Action) with a letter you can send to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

    And here’s the auto-reply I got on writing to them:

    Thank you for your email to Susan G. Komen for the Cure(r). We do appreciate you taking the time to tell us how you feel about our partnership with KFC. You should know that our partnership with KFC is designed at the core to educate millions of people we might not otherwise reach with breast health information – outreach that we consider critical to our mission to save lives and end breast cancer. We are reaching people with life-saving messages through KFC’s 5,300 restaurants (about 900 of them in communities not yet served by a Komen Affiliate), with information in the store, on the buckets and in advertising directing consumers to KFC’s bucketsforthecure.com website, with links to http://www.komen.org.

    Second, this partnership is helping generate millions in funding – a goal of $8.5 million to be raised in six weeks – to further the nearly $1.5 billion in research and community programs that Komen has already spent over the past 30 years – programs that are literally saving people’s lives through letter
    treatments, early detection and advocacy at the federal and state levels. Because of partners like this, our $500 million in research funding has paid enormous dividends – 98 percent five-year survival rates for cancers that haven’t spread from the breast and better and more effective treatments for late-stage breast cancer patients, Further, these partnerships have enabled us to invest $900 million in our communities, providing financial and medical support for women, particularly low-income women, who desperately need help gaining access to the medical care system.

    Some ask what we are doing in terms of prevention. About 10 percent – or $50 million – of our research budget over the years has gone to prevention research. We’ll invest another $20 million of our $55-$60 million research grant program to prevention, and continue funding programs that educate women about their risks.

    We recognize that this partnership brings up a conversation about obesity and health related to cancer. Our partnership highlights the healthy options at KFC – grilled chicken and vegetables, for example. Ultimately, the decision to maintain a well-balanced diet lies in the hands of the consumer. KFC
    provides tools to make those choices, by providing a healthier choice menu at its restaurants and advice on its website on how consumers can limit fat and calorie consumption in its products.

    We hope that you will take a moment to visit the bucketsforthecure.com website to learn more about the partnership and see the stories of hope, education and empowerment being shared there.

    We appreciate your concern and thank you for sharing it with us.

    Very truly yours,

    Margo K. Lucero
    Director, Global Corporate Relations
    5005 LBJ Freeway, Suite 250 | Dallas, TX 72544
    1-877 GO KOMEN | http://www.komen.org

  4. i’ve been watching this for a few days and i think this whole thing is very unfair.

    kfc has never been the best food for anyone, but getting on their case about it **now** when they’re giving money to charity just seems wrong.

    i get cooperate pr + food politics + “the obesity debate,” but this just seems blown out of proportion. people are going to keep eating friend chicken, why not have some of the money go towards something **perceived** as being positive? it’s not going to change consumption habits. the people that run for brest cancer aren’t eating at kfc!

    and if people really want to take the long view on this subject, i’d like to know the difference between the carbon footprints of a brest cancer surviors and kfc. i’m betting surviving cancer thanks to the wonders of modern medicine is worse for the planet than kfc.

  5. Reel aesthete, I agree that it seems backwards to leave KFC alone when they’re not doing anything positive, & then get mad when they partner with a charity. I think probably the right thing is to be upset with KFC all the time, but let’s put that to one side for the moment.

    The letter-writing site sends a letter to the Susan G. Komen people as well as KFC, and that’s what I think matters most, and I don’t think it’s “unfair”. As much as I detest KFC, it makes sense for them to try to clean up their image so as to sell more product–but I think it’s absolutely irresponsible for Susan G. Komen for the Cure to choose KFC as a partner. Their goal isn’t, or oughtn’t to be, simply raising as much money as possible no matter what happens along the way.

    The reply I posted is from SGK, not KFC. I found it pretty unpersuasive & wrote a snarky reply which I’ll spare you–but I thought it worth presenting SGK’s arguments in favour of partnering with KFC. Note, incidentally, that they seem to recommend not buying fried chicken.

    As for whether this campaign is going to change consumption habits: I think KFC, at least, is going to disagree with you. Advertising works. I bet this helps sales of pink buckets. I don’t think we can just pretend there are no effects of something like this.

  6. yes, the problem is the cancer charity that’s teaming up w kfc, surely. two parts of the reply roger received really stuck out:

    “Our partnership highlights the healthy options at KFC – grilled chicken and vegetables, for example.”

    mind, i’m not a kfc eater, so i don’t know for sure. but in all the kfc tv adverts and posters i’ve seen, i’ve never seen a bucket full of grilled chicken and veg. i’m pretty sure the *buckets* contain fried chicken. this is like me offering you a glass of wine and poison, and then saying, in my defense, that i also have orange juice on offer. it’s totally irrelevant.

    “Ultimately, the decision to maintain a well-balanced diet lies in the hands of the consumer.”

    i’m so stinking sick of this sort of statement. the consumer is not a nutritionist. the consumer is also constantly being barraged with misleading food information–like, the message that fried chicken can help fight cancer! companies like kfc are actively *taking away* consumers’ abilities to make healthy food choices, and then insisting that the consumer is responsible for choosing to eat the unhealthy food she’s being offered by these very same companies.
    and for a breast cancer charity to sign their name to this? unbelievable.

  7. I’m not sure what to think. I keep imagining myself running a charity devoted to saving lives, in a time of economic crisis when donations are way down (which I’ve certainly heard is the case for charities). Suppose I’m thinking that I have to start firing people/scaling back activities, and KFC comes along and offers a bucket of money that would help me save a lot of lives. It would be tough to say ‘no’.

    Now, obviously I shouldn’t say ‘yes’ to just anyone– the BNP, say, or the KKK are surely out. But I imagine there are some unsavoury features of just about every corporate donor. My guess is that charities would go out of business if they turned down donations from all problematic donors.

    I wonder what the principle should be that determines which donors are beyond acceptance and which aren’t. I feel unsure about this case until I’ve got such a principle.

  8. We also need a principle to decide about when accepting government donations is UK, given that many governments do some pretty horrible things.

  9. Thanks Roger for the links.

    One disanalogy between KFC and the government is that for KFC, charity donations like this are a form of advertising, whilst that isn’t so for the government. So by being used to advertise KFC, the charity is effectively endorsing the product in the eyes of consumers. There doesn’t seem to be the same kind of public endorsement in the case of the government.

    I think we’d also feel that a charity which accepted money from a terrible regime was doing the wrong thing. Although I also think that our sense of what is and isn’t a terrible regime is probably a bit skewed, given the horrendous things that your average government does, such as waging endless wars in sandy places.

  10. Good point about the disanalogy regarding advertising. And yes, I was thinking of the many charities (and academics!) who accept money from e.g. the UK and US governments.

  11. I understand Komen’s fundraising desires, but a. wouldn’t some place like Subway, which is far healthier, be interested? b. even the “healthy” options at KFC are not very healthy, and c. I can’t imagine that they’re actually disseminating a lot of educational information directly through KFC, since it seems pretty unlikely that a place that is primarily known for selling fried food would let the Komen folks stick a little note on the side of a bucket saying “Fried foods increase your risk of cancer!”

  12. This is a description of what happened to me. I apologize if some of the language may seem a bit graphic. In order to pass the truth along I had to use a few of the inappropriate words that are key to this matter. Attached is a copy of a press release I sent out to various media outlets. Later in the month, Qnotes ( an advocacy and advertising publication, aimed at the gay and gay friendly community, with more than 300,000 readers throughout the southeast) is going to print my story in hopes this matter with Luihn Foods can and will be settled to my satisfaction as well as compensating the community for the many horrific abuses instigated by Luihn Foods. By sending out the press release to as many editors as I could find, I hoped it would turn the heat up on this company and promote change for the current staff members who work hard for these people. I get upset daily thinking of the other staff members subject to similar treatment. I have also asked Luihn Foods for a copy of my employee file. Unfortunately i have been stonewalled. I have been given many excuses to avoid my receiving my own personal copy. This is a copy of my personnel file which includes a fantastic performance review about me I signed and dated together with General Manager Jackee Johnson of the KFC located at 4623 Market street, Greensboro NC. A copy of my employee file that I have the legal right to obtain. Luihn Foods is also clearly doing immoral and illegal acts to scare current employees and shut me out. It seems Luihn Foods prefers this problem be swept away as if it never happened. After a little web research I found several stories similar to mine with the EEOC finding laws broken against Luihn Foods. Other employees have filed and won cases against Luihn Foods for physical sexual harassment. This is a trend in this company that can be researched and proven easily with a few clicks of a mouse. This illegal behavior needs to stop. Luihn Foods has clearly been getting away with disgusting abuses of federal and state laws by treating employees in ways that are both illegal and immoral.

    For months on a job I was repeatedly called faggot, cocksucker and many more derogatory terms, words and phrases by 2 members of management. I was also repeatedly touched by another employee in my private areas in front of management and members of the staff. This activity happened on a daily basis for several months. As members of management laughed and called me the above said words and other harassing phrases, I continued to work everyday and do the best job I could for the company. After suffering a severe panic attack at work one evening I left and notified the GM Jackee Johnson by phone to her personal cell as to why i left the building before my shift ended. I then sent an e-mail to the the District Manager Tammy Flood Conner. The next day HR Lori Mayette was notified by District Manager Tammy Flood Conner of the situation and 2 members of management were terminated as well as the employee who touched me inappropriately. I was paid for a week off during the company investigation. I returned to work a week after the initial report of harassment to find a new hostile work environment. Other employees have stated they believe I was still being discriminated against for an unknown reason. Members of management treated me different. GM Jackee Johnson specifically continued treating me in a matter that was very uncomfortable to the other staff members and extremely negative toward me. It soon became apparent to most all staff I was being singled out for some reason. I worked in a staff where all but two staff members were African American.I was the only Caucasian and we had one Mexican staff member. After weeks of Jackee Johnson treating me different than all the other staff I started to break again. Her treatment of me was so bad a co-worker fled to the restroom during a shift to cry because she was upset by how she witnessed Jackee Johnson treating me. I worked a few more shifts and started negotiations on the phone with Lori Mayette to see a doctor or therapist. Soon later in the month I started seeing a psychiatrist and was placed on meds to deal with the stresses at work and the overflow of emotions that came along with the months of abuse. I also started seeing a therapist. After seeing the doctors I have not returned to work because I was promised by Lori Mayette I would be paid for 3 months out of work to get well. I have received one check for one week before she stopped all assistance. 2 months and one week short of he agreement.

    I was diagnosed with a disorder stemming from the issues at that job, ( KFC 4623 Market Street Greensboro NC ) a direct result of the harassment while i worked at KFC 4623 Market street Greensboro NC. I was told by HR Lori Mayette after filing a charge with the EEOC on 3-26-2010, I would be paid to take off work a few months and meds would be paid for by Luihn Foods. I paid for the prescriptions myself with the promise of reimbursement by Luihn Foods. I was told by Lori Mayette I would receive all the medical assistance I needed. HR Lori Mayette agreed Luihn Foods would pay for only 6 psychiatric visits. I was given the choice of the Doctor or Doctors to help me in this matter. This is the only part of the agreement Luihn Foods have taken care of. My therapist Jay Poole is now pro bono due to the fact I am unable to pay him for his services. My psychiatrist Dr. Plovsky feels I need more time off work and more visits to see him. Unfortunately this doctor has no pro bono offer on the table for his much needed services. Dr. Plovsky’s fees are generally between $100 and $200 dollars per session. This is something the company refuses to pay for after the final sixth visit. I can not afford this and need to see this Dr. to continue his recommended treatment. Treatment HR director Lori Mayette agreed Luihn Foods would pay for.

    I have been forced to pay for medication I can’t afford with the promises of reimbursement by Lori Mayette dir. of HR for Luihn Foods. Lori Mayette also requested i close the file with the EEOC as an offer to settle ” in house ” as she called it. I refused to close the EEOC file and the promises for financial and medical assistance made by Lori Mayette became void. I was not only unlawfully terminated but Lori Mayette told me Luihn Foods refused to pay for the meds that cost me over 300 dollars. HR Lori Mayette tried to persuade me to agree to only speak and negotiate with her ( Luihn Foods ) and close this matter with the EEOC. I asked to speak with other levels of management in Luihn Foods home office and was told by HR Lori Mayette that she was again the only person I could speak with concerning this matter. I refused to close this matter with the EEOC. Lori Mayette informed me all parts of the agreement except for the first 6 visits to see doctors were no longer an option to me.

    HR Lori Mayette then asked me to return to work AMA (against medical advice) and by refusing, Dir. of human resources Lori Mayette said that act would be considered my resignation. I did not quit my job, I was medically not able to return and informed Lori Mayette of my diagnoses agreed by both my therapist and psychiatrist. I was then terminated for what Luihn Foods say was ” no call no show”. I personally believe by not complying with their desire to close the file with the EEOC, this was the reason I was labeled as “no call no show” and illegally terminated. I need some legal assistance. I am jobless, broke, in need of psychiatric assistance and i believe this company is just hoping i will give up. Luihn Foods; who owns over 80 KFC franchises in Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, is the company I worked for.

    On 7-1-2010 the employees working at the KFC location I worked at, were told by the GM Jackee Johnson not to speak to me or any one else about me. The employees were also told not to speak of my case or past issues and behaviors at work. They we also told not to speak to members of the press or anyone about incidences concerning me. Now the co-workers who wanted to help me reveal the injustices at this KFC franchise are in fear of losing their jobs. They believe even talking to the EEOC jeopardizes their employment. Several employees I worked with have stated to me confidentially they do not clearly understand who is the right agency they can speak to freely. They feel anything they say to any organization will cause them to lose their jobs. Luckily for me I do have a few team members on my side who are willing to risk their jobs to help me reveal the practices within Luihn Foods. Is it legal to demand your staff not participate in anything to do with this case or any other cases for that matter? Is it legal to send a message of fear among your staff to decline participating in truths about past abuses within this work environment? I realize my sexual orientation may hold issue with many, I’m also confident enough people will agree sexual molestation, bullying, retaliation, unlawful termination and harassment’s in any workplace are wrong no matter who the victim.

    Luihn Foods has a documented history of similar events and yet still continues to allow its employees to be subjected to horrible discrimination on a daily basis. What will it take to make it end and protect Luihn Foods staff members from suffering these abuses of federal and state laws? It is certainly unfortunate no laws exist in NC to prevent certain discrimination’s concerning sexual orientation. With that said, I know it is illegal to have people molesting you in the workplace whether gay or straight. My Doctor believes it was a physical sexual assault that I was subject to. I also know retaliation to any employee for reporting such incidents to the proper authorities is also illegal.

    I could certainly use any help I could get. Legal advice, financial assistance, medical and prescription assistance would be welcomed. If you have any ideas or contacts I could use in this manner. Please inform me of who to speak with to help me in this situation.

    Thank you,

    Marty Folks

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