Healthy nutrition and health-washing corporate discourses across three organizations in the fast food and soft drinks industry
Mara Stan 
|Abstract: The study inquires about the means by which corporate discourse formulates, invokes and challenges scientific research by examining three case studies of organizations in the fast food and soft drinks industry. Critical discourse analysis carried out on corporate sections dedicated to healthy lifestyles reveals all three explored discursive streams acknowledge customers’ changing needs and consumption patterns. They introduce healthy lifestyles up on the corporate agenda, as cornerstone for their identity and governance strategy of fast-food and soft drinks producers. As overall discursive pattern, corporate public relations jargon constantly employs disclaimers and generic terms such as “evolution”, “development”, “strategy”, “partnership”, “transparency”, without providing specific assessment criteria to map down the intended intervention. The article provides rhetoric illustrations enacted through omission, disclaimers, backgrounding and reframing effects. The overriding discursive rationale implies that healthy diets are still low-priority for leading food and drinks producers. The documented companies indicate in their PR communication two strategies of fighting against the scientifically proven negative impact of their traded products: the individual choice paradigm and the social compensation strategy or health-washing. The article highlights some of the inconsistencies of discourses on healthy food that apparently are counter-intuitive enough to undermine corporate interests, while such discourses peddle on the idea of sincerity, transparency and ethical conduct. All three case studied corporations strive to safeguard their threatened reputation across discursive practices by acknowledging their weaknesses as sign of honesty. Further reflection on critical discourse analysts’ mandate and implications for practice are explored.
Keywords: Fast food, obesity, health-washing, critical discourse analysis
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