by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Conflicts-of-interest

Jul 22 2008

Guess the sponsor: rbGH milk study

Even I am astonished by this one. Greg Miller of the National Dairy Council sends me all the studies that favor eating dairy products.  This one is a classic (of sorts) from the Journal of the American Dietetic Association .  The study compares the nutrient value of conventional milk, rbGH-free milk, and organic milk and finds–surprise!–no significant difference. In case you need a reminder, rbGH is recombinant bovine growth hormone, the genetically engineered hormone that increases milk production in cows.  Monsanto makes it.  OK, class: it’s quiz time.  The study has ten authors.  Guess who seven of them work for (or used to work for)? Guess who paid for the study?  And what are the other three authors doing there?

Jun 5 2008

European Commission dietary recommendations: Fox guarding chickens?

I’d been hearing rumors about how the the European Commission is spending $20 million  to develop dietary recommendations and food standards that will apply to all EU member states.  I now have some confirmation of them through the British magazine, Private Eye (May 30, 2008).   The project, called EURRECA, will be conducted by a bunch of universities but the overall management is going to be through the European branch of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), “a front for the food and bioscience industry.” ILSI is funded by Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Bayer CropScience, and Monsanto, among other such entities.  So $20 million in taxpayer dollars will be  laundered through a food and agbiotech front group.  Private Eye says that it eagerly awaits “EURRECA’s no doubt scientifically rigorous and untirely unbiased conclusions.”

I could do this for a lot less than $20 million, but nobody asked me, alas.

Mar 17 2008

OK. Time to talk about the American Dietetic Association’s alliances with food companies

Ashley just posted this message: “Today I received an email from the American Dietetic Association [ADA] welcoming the Coca-Cola company as a corporate sponsor. As a rookie RD this type of announcement is perplexing and often disturbing. What is more bothersome is that the President of ADA referred to the American Public as consumers… How do I align myself with an organization that aligns themselves with industry more than social activism?

Thank you Ashley for reminding me about some previous comments about the ADA’s industry partnerships, including this one: “I feel badly that you chose to put down ADA for its message instead of joining forces and finding ways that we can work together…as an organization which does not have much money this is the way that we can fund educational programs for our members and get our scientific message out to the public…I hope that you will consider joining with us instead of voicing criticism for this well-respected organization of highly educated and well-trained health professionals.”

Respected ADA colleagues: as long as your organization partners with makers of food and beverage products, its opinions about diet and health will never be believed independent (translation: based on science not politics) and neither will yours. Consider the ADA’s Nutrition Fact Sheets, for example, each with its very own corporate sponsor (scroll down to the lower right hand corner of the second page to see who paid for the Facts). Is the goal of ADA really the same as the goal of the sponsors–to sell the sponsor’s food products? Is this a good way to get important scientific messages to the public?  ADA members: how about doing something about this!

Feb 16 2008

Sponsored science: opinions on calorie labeling

Today’s New York Times has a juicy article in the business section about the differing opinions of obesity experts about New York City’s proposal to require certain restaurants to post calorie information on menu boards. The head of one obesity society, who is a frequent consultant to the food and restaurant industry, apparently thinks calorie labeling will backfire by “inadvertently encouraging patrons to consume lower-calorie foods that subsequently lead to greater total caloric intake because of poor satiating efficiency of the smaller calorie loads.” Coincidence?

Jan 27 2008

Coke and Pepsi promote health!

I’m getting lots of e-mails about Coca-Cola’s co-sponsorship of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Instutite’s HeartTruth Red Dress campaign to increase women’s awareness of their risk for heart disease. You can find out more about Diet Coke’s sponsorship on the Coca-Cola website. Here’s my favorite line in the news release: “Participation by Coca-Cola does not imply endorsement by DHHS/NIH/NHLBI.” Really? I’ll bet Coke hopes people will think it does.

But that’s not all. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) is partnering with Pepsi. Pepsi, it says, “will work with ADA to develop consumer and professional education programs, and tackle nutrition research questions.” How’s that for unbiased?

Dec 10 2007

Local v. Industrial foods: More sponsored science?

The business section of Sunday’s New York Times reports counterintuitive research suggesting that locally grown foods may have a higher carbon footprint than foods transported from long distances. CSPI’s Integrity in Science project says the source of the research, University of California Davis’ program on sustainable agriculture gets industry funding, including a $250,000 grant from Campbell Soup. It’s not that food companies buy the research results they want. It’s just that groups that take industry money are more likely to come up with research favorable to the sponsor’s interests. Just a coincidence, I guess.

Dec 10 2007

More on Bisphenol A: Sponsored Science?

My previous post on bisphenol A linked to a National Toxicology Program giving this component of plastic water bottles a relatively clean bill of health. Now, Integrity in Science Watch (a branch of Center for Science in the Public Interest) reports that according to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, the science behind this report is industry-sponsored as the final report relied more on industry-funded studies than on those conducted by independent researchers. When reviewing studies of controversial topics, it’s always a good idea to check who sponsored the research.

Oct 31 2007

The Canadian Heart Foundation pushes junk food too

Thanks to Yoni Freedhoff, a physician in Canada, for sending his blog notice about an alliance between the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation and Disney to market food products. Take a look at the foods the Foundation is endorsing. This reminds me of similar alliances between the American Heart Association and sugary cereals. The American Diabetes Association used too have a deal like that with Post Cereals, but stopped doing that after Jane Brody wrote about it in the New York Times (I discuss these alliances in What to Eat).

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