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Ding Dong! The Kraft/AND Witch Is Dead!

Between Mac & Cheese recalls or shards of glass in its cheese, Kraft Foods just can’t get catch a break. We recently wrote about the partnership between the food giant and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of nutrition professionals and the shady dealings that went on between the two that resulted in Kraft displaying the Academy’s “Kids Eat Right” logo on its Kraft Singles packages.

It turns out that the latest on the partnership—namely that it’s ending—is breaking the internet. The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, CivilEats, and Consumerist are just a hefty handful of outlets reporting the reversal of this soured collaboration. While details are still being sorted out (it’s like a weird we-knew-this-would-never-work divorce after a shotgun wedding), there is still plenty of information that we still don’t know about the short-lived Kraft/AND affair. Here’s a run-down of the knowns and still-unknowns about the whole thing:

What we do know

A group of dieticians had started a Change.org petition to remove the Academy’s planned “Kids Eat Right” initiative logo from Kraft Singles packages, stating that although the AND claimed that Kraft was merely featuring the logo to advertise the healthy eating initiative, consumers would be hard-pressed to see the move as anything other than an endorsement of the “cheese product” by the AND. Looks like the more than 10,000 signatures that the #RepealtheSeal petition received spoke louder than money did in what folks are calling a “PR nightmare” for Kraft. Petition creators have called for not only an end to the endorsement, but also “for full transparency regarding the process of approval to allow the KER logo on the Kraft product.”

Some known details of the contract according to the New York Times include that Kraft agreed to pay for scholarships, research, and public awareness campaigns in exchange for the right to use the Academy’s Kids Eating Right label and website address on Kraft Singles packages.

The AND is still trying to convince everyone that no, putting the Kids Eating Right label on Kraft Singles packaging was definitely, positively, absolutely not an endorsement of the product. It was only a way to advertise for and gain further exposure of the Kids Eating Right campaign. They pinky swear.

The intent of the partnership between Kraft and the AND was to gain more awareness of the Calcium and Vitamin D deficiency that is common among children. Now that the whole thing is ending rather awkwardly, planned, longer-term nutritional education campaigns around dairy and calcium won’t move forward, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Andy Bellatti, a dietician and member of the AND staunchly against the partnership, says that nutritionists are already fielding questions from understandably confused consumers on whether or not Kraft Singles are a “healthy food” and people are asking things like, “Are nutritionists asking us to eat more Kraft Singles?”

We’ll actually see the logo on some packages of Kraft Singles, albeit for a limited time. Product packaging has already been manufactured, so the logoed label will appear for a short time in grocery stores. The new packages-cum-controversy were due out Wednesday, April 1 (unfortunately not an April Fool’s joke) and are expected to last on shelves until July.

Also apparent is that, public relations nightmare or not, both organizations are avoiding any mention of the issue on all social media. No mention of the cessation on Kraft Food’s Facebook or Twitter. Nothing on their website (not even in their “News Center”), and the same radio silence on the AND‘s and Kids Eat Right Twitter pages. #awkward #weknowwhatsgoingon #mommmyanddaddyarefighting

What we don’t know

The full contract details including the undisclosed amount that Kraft “contributed” (read: paid) to be able to feature the AND logo is still unknown. But we bet it was a pretty big number. This information is also desired by the creators of the #RepealtheSeal petition. “We ask for full disclosure of the terms of the financial agreement between KER Foundation and Kraft,” they write.

Jody Moore of Kraft stated that “both organizations have agreed that it is best not to proceed as originally planned,” and our minds immediately went to that time Britney Spears got married for 55 hours. But no one is really sure about what happens now. Even spokespersons from both sides are saying that it will take a little while for the organizations to sort out the nitty gritty of ending the partnership. Does the AND gives all of Kraft’s money back? Does Kraft take it, implying that they never truly cared about all that whole kids and calcium deficiency thing, anyway? Will Kraft still give money to the professional organization in the name of furthering public health and nutrition even if Kraft products don’t get to include the Kids Eat Right logo? (Maybe. But I’d bet only as the punchline to a belated April Fool’s prank.)

The WSJ article states that Kraft will continue to explore partnerships “with credible organizations that share a common goal.” Those other “credible organizations” with whom Kraft is looking to partner are still unknown. Only time, and money, will tell.

Michelina DelGizzi

Michelina DelGizzi, MS, MPH, is a writer and caseophile based in Boston and Lafayette, La.

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