The flu shot has become America’s latest blockbuster deal as CVS, Target, Kroger and other supermarkets have begun creatively advertising the new vaccine each year.
The deals are questionable enough in their own right considering the potentially serious side effects and toxins associated with each shot, but a recent charity partnership with one of America’s most controversial companies may be even more concerning.
In previous years, 5-20% off store coupons were offered in different stores. This year Kroger came up with an “eye-raising” campaign: “One Shot. One Meal.” Kroger Pharmacy has partnered up with Feeding America, an organization whose mission to feed people struggling with hunger is honorable, but whose business ties are questionable to say the least.
Feeding America (formerly known as America’s Second Harvest) has done plenty of good work in its day, collecting unused food from retail stores and manufacturers to provide to food banks.
But their partnership with Monsanto, whose “broken promises” to “feed the world” with lab engineered GMOs and heavy use of toxic, potentially carcinogenic chemical concoctions like Roundup, is raising plenty of eyebrows.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this surprisingly complex alliance between Big Pharma and America’s biggest, Big Ag linked, hunger-fighting charity.
The Story Behind Feeding America
Created by John van Hengel in 1979, Feeding America’s mission is to stop the enormous food waste problem in America – an estimated of 30-40% of all food supplies– by giving it to those in need.
But in the process the company has lost its moral compass, naming Monsanto its “Leadership Partner” in 2015 despite its sordid history which includes everything from massively toxic PCB pollution to Agent Orange and even reportedly white phosphorus, a horrific, internationally banned weapon of war.
Stopping food waste is vital, and Feeding America plays a major part in it; last year they rescued 2.8 billion pounds of food out of the estimated 130 billion pounds, or about 2% of all food waste.
But is it really necessary for a Monsanto-linked charity to handle this job?
One simple solution to the problem would be to ban supermarkets from throwing out unsold food, and making it mandatory for them to donate everything to food banks. This is exactly what France has done (and became the very first country to do so) but the U.S. laws are not there yet.
After 2005, the time of the death of the company’s creator, Feeding America’s business choices and identity have shifted.
In 2008 it changed its name from America’s Second Harvest to Feeding America.
In 2015, the Monsanto partnership came about, turning the charity into a convenient PR vehicle for Monsanto’s oft-repeated (and oft-debunked) message of “feeding the world” used to justify its toxic chemical and GMO-based model.
Around this time, the two entities also joined together for “Invest An Acre,” a program where farmers donate a portion of their crops and Monsanto matches their donation dollar-to-dollar. While the campaign has helped many people, programs like this are also a way for companies such as Monsanto to spread its corporate message, in this case that genetically engineered foods are the way to “feed the world,” a statement that has been proven false.
(A recent United Nations report accused global corporations of falsely promoting that pesticides as needed to feed the world. They called this idea a “systematic denial of harms” and an “aggressive, unethical marketing tactic.”)
It’s also important to be aware that Feeding America’s leadership team and dozens of employees are currently making a surprising of money for a non-profit organization.
There are 71 individuals in Feeding America earning an income of over $100,000 a year, and the CEO earned over $606K (not including other compensation), according to their 2014 tax returns (of course, comparing to the $2.1 million that CEO John Seffrin earned from the American Cancer Society, $606K does not seem so high).
But what does any of this have to do with flu shots?
Big Corporations are Joining Forces to Push Vaccines
We are at a time when many organizations have acquired so much money that it makes it possible for them to use the funds to shape public opinion.
And now many companies are either merging (like Monsanto and Bayer) or partnering up like Monsanto and Feeding America, creating a huge interconnected power structure with enough clout and marketing dollars to influence society in unseen ways.
Flu shots for example are declining in popularity because of the side effects and risks associated with them vs. natural and holistic based therapies. But the marketing blitz from companies like Kroger and Feeding America has obscured the lack of independent safety and efficacy testing surrounding these shots.
Vaccine Safety Study Concerns
Unknown to most of the general public is that our vaccine safety studies are often funded by pharmaceutical giant Merck.
Major voices supporting them include the American Academy of Pediatrics, Every Child By Two, and Dr. Paul Offit; all have ties to and benefits from pharmaceutical companies. The pharmaceutical industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbying each year, more than any other industry, and it pays big dividends in the public sphere.
In just one example, to push the HPV vaccine to school-aged children (the vaccine that injured many), Merck has been providing all of the information, lobbying legislators, drafting legislation, gathering female legislators and physicals, and creating marketing campaigns. Legislators even turned to Merck for scientific information that Merck itself has funded.
A study analyzing this situation has concluded that:
“Although policymakers acknowledge the utility of manufacturers’ involvement in vaccination policymaking, industry lobbying that is overly aggressive, not fully transparent, or not divorced from financial contributions to lawmakers risks undermining the prospects for legislation to foster uptake of new vaccines.”
When everything is interconnected, our lawmakers, the food industry, pharmaceutical companies, and now even non-profits, it is more important than ever to be vigilant, and ask, “Who benefits from this?” Is it the consumer, the people, or the organization itself?
The Fine Print in Kroger’s Vaccine, Feeding America Deal
In the instance of the Kroger campaign, “One Shot – One Meal” promises to donate one meal for every flu shot they administer. One might call it nothing more than a bizarre marketing ploy after looking at the fine print, in which it states that they are only donating about 9 cents to feed the hungry per shot.
If a person wanted to donate, wouldn’t one rather donate $1 (or 11 meals) instead of signing up for a flu shot if that’s the main reason to do so?
What You Need To Know About Flu Shots
Many Americans (about 56%) choose to not get the flu shot year after year, and there are sound reasons why one would make that decision.
Flu shots are a $1.6 billion business, and as mentioned previously the companies that create them are controlling most of the research. Taking that into account, there are other reasons to rely on natural immunity instead:
- Flu shots contain controversial toxic ingredients such as formaldehyde (industrial fungicide), octylphenol ethoxylate (Triton X-100) or one of Dow’s chemicals, and thimerosal (mercury). Many ingredients have been linked to serious illnesses and symptoms such as monobasic sodium phosphate (seizures), dibasic sodium phosphate (cardiovascular and overall mortality), and sodium taurodeoxycholate (tumor growth). A full list of flu shot ingredients can be viewed here).
- Flu shots work only about 50% of the time. There are many flu strains, and the vaccine makers have to predict which strains will be stronger the next year. Some years the flu shots work less than other years of the strains after they were not predicted correctly.
- Some flu shots such as the nasal spray did not work at all.
- For senior citizens, the flu vaccine worked only 9% of the time in 2012-2013.
- Because flu vaccines are made new every year, one can never predict how effective it will be – or how dangerous. All vaccines come with possible side effects, and sometimes a new batch can do more harm than good. In Australia, at least 63 children were hospitalized in 2010 after getting severely ill after a flu vaccination. One child went into a coma, the others had a high fever, febrile convulsions, and were vomiting.
- A few children in the U.S. were reportedly paralyzed by flu vaccines. The full list by year can be found on the government resource Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
- Washing one’s hands is a “do-it-yourself” vaccine, according to the CDC, and is as important for protection against the flu.
- Death from a bad flu strain is rare, most deaths are due to the underlying health conditions, or not properly treating the symptoms such as severe dehydration, says the CDC. It also notes that about 310,000 people are hospitalized yearly due to flu-related illnesses, but most cases are mild and can be handled with smart lifestyle choices (not to mention nutrition and holistic remedies — Editor)
- “Most people who get the flu will have mild illness, will not need medical care or antiviral drugs, and will recover in less than two weeks,” according to the organization.
All of this of course raises a question — Is getting the flu vaccine and supporting the mission of entities like Monsanto and massive pharmaceutical companies really worth it, all to provide a single meal that could have been easily and cheaply obtained without the flu shot?
Ultimately that’s up to the consumer to decide, and in this case it’s clear that a fully educated consumer is not exactly what these organizations are counting on.