Germany’s minister for food and agriculture has been accused of allowing her office’s social media channels to be used as a springboard for a “PR event” for Nestlé.
A video in which Julia Klöckner talks to the head of Nestlé Germany about her government’s “innovation and reduction strategy” and his company’s “philosophy” was sent out via the ministry for food and agriculture’s official Twitter channel earlier this week.
In the video, Klöckner, a member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), thanks Marc-Aurel Boersch for his support for the government campaign, which she says translates into “less sugar, less fat” in products “that citizens enjoy”.
The video was immediately picked up by Rezo, a German YouTuber who is fast gaining a reputation as the CDU’s nemesis on social media.
“Fun fact”, tweeted the 26-year-old music producer, whose one-hour “demolition” of the conservative governing party’s policies has been viewed more than 14m times since it was uploaded on 18 May, “if I had posted the exact same tweet with such a video, I would have had to mark it as advertising”.
German YouTuber Rezo’s video attacking Merkel party goes viral
The clip also drew criticism from opposition politicians. The leader of the German Green party’s parliamentary group, Katrin Göring-Eckardt, accused the minister of having produced an “ad” for the Swiss multinational food and drink company,which has in the past been accused of questionable business practices and complicity in environmental damage.
In 2010 Greenpeace accused Nestlé of driving the destruction of the Indonesia rain forest through its use of palm oil. The company says it is committed to using 100% responsibly sourced palm oil by 2020.
Karl Lauterbach, a health policy specialist for the Social Democratic Union, the CDU’s junior coalition partner, said the video was “embarrassing, bitter even”. “First Klöckner let lobbyists argue away the sugar tax and the food rating system, and then she participates in a Nestlé PR event,” the politician said.
Klöckner dismissed her critics as “hate speakers” and told them to check their own party’s policies on sugar reduction. “First you complain that nothing is happening. Then you flip out when we achieve something,” she tweeted.
But criticism also came from her own ranks. “As a directly elected MP,” said the CDU delegate Roderich Kiesewetter, “I say there’s no way you can tie a ministry so closely to a company. Why not [make a video] with Nestlé’s competitors? Why make one at all?”
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