by Marion Nestle

Search results: food policy action

Aug 1 2018

What should we think about the food industry’s new Sustainable Food Policy Alliance holds promise?

Danone North America, Mars Inc, Nestlé USA (no relation), and Unilever US have left the Grocery Manufacturers Association to form a new organization, the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance.

Its stated purpose (as explained in the press release):

  • Consumer Transparency: Improving the quality and accessibility of information available to consumers about the food they purchase for themselves and their families.
  • Environment: Advocating for innovative, science-based solutions to take action against the costly impacts of climate change, build more resilient communities, promote renewable energy, and further develop sustainable agriculture systems.
  • Food Safety: Ensuring the quality and safety of food products and the global supply chain.
  • Nutrition: Developing and advocating for policies that help people make better-informed food choices that contribute to healthy eating while supporting sustainable environmental practices.
  • People and Communities: Advancing policies that promote a strong, diverse, and healthy workplace and support the supply chain, including rural economies.

The Alliance says it intends to:

  • Urge policymakers to ensure the Farm Bill and other farm policies emphasize water quality and conservation issues, improved soil health, and renewable energy (particularly wind and solar).
  • Explore the economics of sustainability, including financial incentives to reduce emissions and transition to low-carbon alternatives and to create value for farmers, ranchers, and others.
  • Advocate on behalf of environmental policies at the state, national, and international levels, including the Paris Climate Agreement and Clean Power Plan.

Sounds good, no?

As I told the Washington Post, I would like

to see how the four companies address more inconvenient environmental and public health policies, such as limits on bottling water from national forests or mandated, front-of-package nutrition labeling. Those policies could potentially threaten their bottom lines — an issue Danone’s Lozano said his company did not face with its current efforts around sustainability.

Let’s give them credit for going after the low-hanging fruit first…But the real questions are what they will really do, and when.

Mar 13 2018

Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat

For review copies, interviews, etc, contact Kelsey Odorczyk at Basic Books: Kelsey.Odorczyk@hbgusa.com

For information about the book, see Basic Books/Hachette,  IndieBound,  Amazon

For reviews and media accounts, scroll down.

Summary

Is chocolate heart-healthy? Does yogurt prevent type 2 diabetes? Do pomegranates help cheat death? News headlines bombard us with such amazing claims. They are reported as science, and have dramatic effects on what we eat.  Yet, as food expert Marion Nestle explains, these studies are more about marketing than science; they are often paid for by the companies and trade associations that sell those foods. Whether it’s a Coca-Cola-backed study hailing light exercise as a calorie neutralizer, claims for beef as a health food, or a report from investigators paid by a blueberry trade group concluding that this fruit prevents erectile dysfunction, every corner of the food industry knows how to turn conflicted research into big profit. As Nestle argues, it’s time to put public health first. Written with unmatched rigor and insight, Unsavory Truth reveals how the food industry manipulates nutrition science—and suggests what we can do about it.

Blurbs

“What happens when one of the country’s great nutrition investigators follows the money in food and science? You get this riveting, provocatively-written book, which deftly explores how the processed food industry has deepened our dependence on its products by sponsoring and manipulating food research for decades. This book should be read by anyone who has been seduced by the words, ‘New study shows…’—which is all of us.”  —Michael Moss, author of Salt Sugar Fat

“Marion Nestle is a tireless warrior for public health, and her meticulous research and irrefutable arguments are desperately needed right now. This book, as frightening as it is, compels us to discover where true health begins: nutrition starts in the ground, with real food that is sustainably grown, eaten in season, and alive.”  —Alice Waters, founder, owner, and executive chef of Chez Panisse

 “In clear, concise language, Marion Nestle details the many ways our ideas about what to eat are being manipulated by Big Food.  If you want to make better choices, read this book.”  —Ruth Reichl, former editor of Gourmet Magazine

 “Marion Nestle is a national treasure.  She has the courage to take on multinational corporations and the wisdom to separate the facts from the spin.  If you care about our food system and the health of your family, Unsavory Truth is essential reading.”  —Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation

“Marion Nestle has been a guiding light for sanity, credibility, and justice in food and nutrition for decades; she stands alone in her field. In Unsavory Truth, she exposes the awful deceptions practiced on eaters by manipulative food companies using ‘scientific research’ try to make themselves look good.”  —Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything

 “Marion Nestle is a truth-teller in a world awash with nutrition lies of one kind and another. In this scintillating and eye-opening book, Nestle reveals how much of our confusion about food in modern times has been spread by the food industry itself, which passes off marketing as science and funds ‘research’ designed to show that its products are harmless. Unsavory Truth is essential reading for anyone in search of hard facts about what to eat.”  —Bee Wilson, author of First Bite and Consider the Fork

Reviews and media

2019

Mar 11  Interview with VegSource with Jeff Nelson

Mar 5  TVO (Canada) The Agenda with Steve Paikin: Battling bias in nutrition research.  Also on YouTube.

Feb 17 Cover story based on Unsavory Truth, San Francisco Chronicle: “The myth-making of food

Feb 5  KQED San Francisco, Michael Krasny’s Forum

Feb 2  Sarah Boseley reviews Unsavory Truth in The Lancet

Jan/Feb  Nutrition Action Healthletter: Peter Lurie’s editorial

Jan 25  Interview with Holly Friend of LS:N Global

Jan 22  KPFK radio interview , Feminist Magazine with Lynn Harris Ballen

Jan 21  Cookery by the Book, podcast with Suzy Chase

Jan 16  Kara Goldin’s podcast on Unstoppable, Unsavory Truth

2018

Dec 21 The Hagstrom Report’s five best ag books of 2018

Dec 19  Podcast with Max Lugavere, The Genius Life Episode 39 (iTunes), on Unsavory Truth

Dec 17  Radio interview with Rose Aguilar, KALW San Francisco on Unsavory Truth

Dec 14 Podcast review by Narsai David, KCBS

Dec 13  Lecture on Unsavory Truth (video) at Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center

Dec 13  Online interview at PLoS Blog

Dec 12  Podcast with Wooden Teeth

Dec 6  NYU Journalism Kavli Conversation on Science Communication with Paul Greenberg, moderated by Robert Lee Hotz

Dec 3  Interview (podcast) with Bhavani Jaroff of iEat Green

Nov 30  Conor Purcell interview for Undark’s Five Questions

Nov 29 Paul Thacker on Unsavory Truth in the BMJ

Nov 28  Podcast interview with Monica Eng on Unsavory Truth: Chewing episode 55

Nov 26  Lisa Held on Unsavory Truth, Edible Manhattan

Nov 19  Interview with Gabrielle Lipton, Landscape News

Nov 18  Video of interview with Dean Malcolm Clemens, Forum at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco (audio file).

Nov 15  Review by Gavin Wren, Medium.com

Nov 15  Video of keynote at launch of UCSF Food Industry Documents Library (my talk is in Part I: 14:30)

Nov 12  Jennifer Bowden on Unsavory Truth in New Zealand’s The Listener.

Nov 12  Interview with Jesse Mulligan, Radio New Zealand

Nov 10  Review in New Scientist

Nov 7  Podcast interview with The Potter Report

Nov 7  A. Pawlowski.  What are superfoods?  The truth about blueberries, dark chocolate and pomegranate.  Today.

Nov 6  Interview with Paul Thacker.  Tonic.

Nov 4  Lorin Fries.  Who decides what you eat?  (Hint: it’s not only you).  Forbes.

Nov 1  Review in New York Journal of Books

Oct 31 Review from New York Magazine’s The Cut

Oct 31  Interview with Julia Belluz in Vox

Oct 30  Excerpt from Unsavory Truth on Medium.com: “When Big Soda Started Stalking Me”

Oct 30  NPR radio interview with Brian Lehrer

Oct 30 Yoni Freedhoff, Weighty Matters.

Oct 30  Jane Brody.  Confused by nutrition research?  New York Times, Science section.

Oct 29  RT America video interview on Boom Bust about Unsavory Truth.

Oct 28  Hailey Eber. How the food industry fooled us into eating junk.  New York Post, 42-43.

Oct 23  Nestle M.  Superfoods are a marketing ploy (excerpt).  The Atlantic .

Oct 22  Àlex Pérez.  Una verdad desagradable no vende.  ElPiscolabis (Spain).

Oct 18 Nature Magazine (2018;562:334-335): Felicity Lawrence reviews Deborah Blum’s The Poison Squad and Unsavory Truth as “Poisoned Platefuls.”  “Nestle…could make a fair claim to [Harvey] Wiley’s mantle today…The book is a remorseless dissection of the corruption of science by industry.”

Oct 18  Interview with Maggie Tauranac on Unsavory Truth, FoodPrint

Oct 16 Podcast with Danielle Nierenberg on Unsavory Truth and other matters

Oct 2  Science Magazine: “There is indeed something rotten in the state of dietary science, but books like this show us that we consumers also hold a great deal of power.”

Sept 25 La Stampa (Italy): “I cibi di lunga vita sono illusori e troppi sponsor li promuovono.” (The newspaper clip).

Sept 24  Publishers Weekly: ” a groundbreaking look at how food corporations influence nutrition research and public policy.”

Aug 13 Booklist: “This well-documented, accessible venture makes a compelling argument.”

Aug 1  Kirkus: “Nestle proves yet again that she is a unique, valuable voice for engaged food consumers.”

July 17  Phil Lempert’s Lempert Report: Get ready for a new era of transparency (video)

July 9  David Wineberg, “Nutrition: conflict of interest as a career,” Medium.com.

Feb 12 Finnish Public Radio interview about Unsavory Truth (Google Translate, English)

Jan 31 Profile in New Scientist: The Unpalatable Truth about Your Favorite foods

Tweets (Highly Selected)

Michael Pollan, October 30

Ing Fei Chen, October 16:  Undark

Yoni Freedhoff, October 7: his mentions

Basic Books, October 2: Mark Bittman blurb

Basic Books, September 25: Ruth Reichl blurb

Basic Books, September 6: Eric Schlosser blurb

Basic Books, August 28: Alice Waters blurb

Michael Pollan, August 18: “This is a terrific and eye-opening book”

Bee Wilson, August 17: “I feel lucky to have an advance copy …A great piece of investigative writing.”

Basic Books, August 17: Bee Wilson blurb

Share |
Feb 9 2018

Weekend reading: Food industry influence on government health policies

This report from the UK Health Forum is a compendium of case studies about food industry influence on government food and nutrition policies in developing countries such as Mexico, Chile, Fiji, Brazil, and Guatemala, but also England, Canada, and others.

To pick just one example, that of Chile:

This case study examines the long-standing relationship between the food
industry and the Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology (INTA) of the
University of Chile – the most prestigious food and nutrition-related institution
in the country. The types of collaboration include:

  • industry-funded research
  • scholarships and awards
  • membership of industry-funded or linked foundations
  • awarding of nutrient-specific certification of foods that are high in calories,
    sugar, saturated fats or salt
  • joint public health programmes
  • marketing in institutional publications and websites.

INTA plays a major role in food policy-making in Chile…The existence of
strong financial ties between INTA and the food and drinks industry represents
a conflict of interest, potentially compromising INTA’s independence in highly
relevant research and policy areas.

Share |
Dec 1 2017

Weekend action: Advocating for organics (Toolkit!)

IFOAM—Organics International–offers a Global Policy Toolkit on Public Support to Organic Agriculture, for use by anyone who wants to advocate for organics and sustainable agriculture.

The toolkit includes:

The main report offers Policy summaries for specific measures to promote organic production and consumption.

No excuses!

Aug 2 2017

Should nutrition scientists take food-industry funding?

I am an advisor to the American Society of Nutrition’s Early Career Nutrition group and was asked to address this question for its spring/summer newsletter (my piece starts on page 9).  Here’s what I said:

As a newly appointed advisor to ASN’s Early Career Nutrition (ECN) group, I am pleased to be asked to explain why I do not think it a good idea for nutrition scientists, practitioners, and societies to be funded by food, beverage, and supplement companies (collectively, the food industry) for research that is in any way related to their products. If we do, we run the risk of appearing as if our interests are conflicted. More than that, we risk being conflicted—influenced to be less critical or silent about nutrition issues related to the donor’s products. There is no getting around it: whatever the reality of the relationship, taking money from a for-profit food company makes us appear to be supporters of whatever products the company sells.

I worry a lot that financial ties between food companies and ASN tarnish its reputation and ours. It troubles me when critics outside our profession view us as “on the take” and publish reports exposing ASN’s financial ties to companies that have a marketing stake in what we study or say about their products. When ASN meetings are sponsored by food companies, it makes these financial ties seem normal. ASN provides a platform for industry-sponsored sessions such as the one this year on the benefits of Stevia, but you can bet they don’t include speakers who might say anything critical. Sponsorship excludes that possibility.

Most of what we know about the effects of sponsorship comes from a very large body of research on funding by the cigarette, chemical, pharmaceutical, and medical device industries. The results of this research are remarkably consistent: they demonstrate that industry funding influences the design, interpretation, and outcome of research. Nutrition is late to this type of investigation, but several recent studies show that studies funded by the food industry almost invariably favor the interests of the sponsor. Publication bias against negative studies explains only a small part of these findings.

Industry funding of nutrition research is an important issue where there are diverse opinions. ASN is a welcoming place encouraging discussion from members with all perspectives on topics including this one. ASN members share a common unifying goal of advancing nutrition science to promote the public welfare. Working together we can and we will continue to disclose potential conflicts of interest and advance the field for the public benefit. Dr. Mary Ann Johnson, ASN President
Investigators who take such funding insist that it has no effect on the design, conduct, interpretation, or publication of their research. This insistence is consistent with another large body of research demonstrating that gifts have a profound influence on attitudes, behavior, and action–but that recipients are blind to these effects. The medical literature shows that even small gifts—pens and pads—are enough to influence prescription practices, and that larger gifts have even greater effects. But the influence occurs below the radar of critical thinking. It is unintentional, unconscious, and unrecognized.

What most troubles me is the lack of questioning of industry penetration into our societies and research. I think we should be raising questions about ASN’s involvement with companies whose profits might be affected by our opinions or research results. Should ASN have competed to manage the industry-funded Smart Choices program that ended up putting a seal of approval on Froot Loops? Does it make sense for ASN to endorse public policy statements promoting the benefits of processed foods or opposing “added sugars” on food labels? Is it reasonable for ASN to argue on social media that it is inappropriate to question industry funding of research? Must ECN sessions at the annual meeting really be funded by companies such as PepsiCo (last year) or Abbott Laboratories? These actions send the message that ASN is an arm of the food industry and that we uncritically support what it makes, sells, or does.

But let’s turn to a more immediate concern: research funding. As early investigators, you face intense pressures to bring in external grants to pay for your studies, overhead, and maybe even your salaries. Government funding for many areas of nutrition research is declining. These pressures are real. But just as real are the effects of industry funding on research.
From March 2015 to March 2016, I posted summaries of industry-funded studies on my blog. During that year, I collected 168 studies. Of these, 156 yielded results favoring the sponsor’s interests. I only could find 12 studies that did not. This was a casually collected convenience sample but it did allow one conclusion: it is easier to find industry-funded studies with positive results than those with negative results. Nevertheless, recent systematic studies come to the same conclusion. Studies funded by Coca-Cola, for example, are far more likely to conclude that its products have no effect on obesity or type 2 diabetes than do studies funded by government or foundations.

Because we are generally unconscious of the influence of financial ties, it is easy for us to deny the influence or argue that nonfinancial interests—preferences for hypotheses and desires for career advancement–are just as biasing. Yes they may be biasing, but all scientists have them. In contrast to financial ties to industry, it is not possible to eliminate nonfinancial biases and still do science.

I am often asked whether there is a way to take money from food companies and maintain intellectual independence and professional reputation. I regret that I cannot think of any viable way to do that. The ASN has appointed a “Truth” commission to examine this issue and I look forward to its report. In the meantime, I am hoping that you will give thought to the potential conflict of interest and reputational loss that you risk with food industry ties. You must figure out for yourself whether you think the risks are worth taking.

If you do decide to engage with industry, you will need to disclose it. Most journals now require authors to reveal who pays for their work, but even when done diligently, disclosure is not sufficient to alert readers to the extent to which industry funding influences research outcome and professional opinion. Yes, disclosure is uncomfortable, perhaps explaining why so many studies identify frequent lapses. It is likely to become more uncomfortable. In response to a petition from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (which I co-signed), the National Library of Medicine has announced that it will henceforth add funding disclosures and conflict-of-interest statements to PubMed abstracts.

It is only fair to tell you how I handle these issues. My disclosure statement says:

Dr. Nestle’s salary from NYU supports her research, manuscript preparation, Website, and blog at https://foodpolitics.com. She also earns royalties from books and honoraria from lectures to university and health professional groups about matters relevant to this topic.” I also on occasion speak to food industry groups. When I do, I accept reimbursements for travel expenses but ask that honoraria be donated to the NYU library’s food studies collection.

This policy, imperfect as it may be, is the best I can do. I ask only that you think seriously about these issues and figure out for yourself how best to deal with them. I am happy to discuss these matters and am most easily reached at marion.nestle@nyu.edu.

References

  • Nestle M. Food company sponsorship of nutrition research and professional activities: A conflict of interest? Public Health Nutrition 2001;4:1015-22.
  • Nestle M. Corporate funding of food and nutrition research: science or marketing? JAMA Internal Medicine 2016;176(1):13-4.
  • Krimsky S. Science in the Private Interest: Has the Lure of Profits Corrupted Medical Research. Rowman and Littlefield, 2004.
  • Lo B, Field MJ, eds. Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2009.
  • Simon M. Nutrition Scientists on the Take from Big Food. Eat Drink Politics and the Alliance for Natural Health, Jun 2015.
Jul 28 2017

Weekend Reading: Urban Food Policy

The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES) has issued a new report with five case studies on successful urban food policy.  lead authors are Corinna Hawkes and Jess Halliday.

the five:

  • Belo Horizonte—food security
  • Nairobi—urban agriculture
  • Amsterdam—healthy weight
  • Golden Horseshoe (Ontario, Canada)—food and farming
  • Detroit—urban agriculture

It’s wonderfully written and illustrated.

And it is highly instructive about what has to be in place to put these policies in action (the report calls them enablers).

You want a food policy in your town?  This will help.

Jul 7 2017

Weekend reading: A People’s Food Policy

From the UK comes one of the best documents I’ve ever seen about food system policy:

It has information about why we need a coherent, comprehensive food policy, what it has to address, how to set priorities for putting policies in action, and how to build a movement to get there.

Olivier de Schutter, formerly the United Nations special rapporteur on the Right to Food, wrote the Foreword.

We need one of these for the United States.  In the meantime, this is really useful.

Food organizations, professors, students: take a look.

Here’s the main site where you can find out more about this initiative.

 

 

 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByOC-u0iVRMGLUVKem12RHNhMU0/view

Share |
May 1 2017

Government’s food regressions: FDA and USDA

It’s pretty depressing to watch what’s happening to the gains in food and nutrition policy so hard won in the last few years.

Nothing but bad news:

Menu labeling:  The FDA is submitting interim final rules, a tactic to delay implementation of menu labeling, which was supposed to start on May 5.  Why?  The National Association of Convenience Stores and the National Grocers Association filed a petition asking for the delay.   Pizza sellers have been lobbying like mad to avoid having to post calories.

Food labels (calories, added sugars): As the Washington Post puts it, the food industry is counting on the current administration to back off on anything that might help us all make better food choices.  At least 17 food industry groups have asked for a delay in the compliance date for new food labels—for three years.  Why?  They are a burden to industry.  The soon-to-be FDA Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, said this about food labels:

As a general matter, I support providing clear, accurate, and understandable information to American consumers to help inform healthy dietary choices,” Gottlieb wrote, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. “ … However, I am mindful of the unique challenges that developing and communicating such information can pose, particularly on small, independent businesses.”

Definition of dietary fiber: The American Bakers Association wants the FDA to take back its new, stricter definition of dietary fiber, (it excludes synthetic fiber) due to go into effect in July 2018.

School meals: The USDA says it is about to announce new school meal “flexibility” (translation: rollback of nutrition standards).

The score: Big business 4, public health 0

Happy May Day.

For further reading:

Addition: It gets worse.  Politico reports that the congressional spending bill:

Contains a rider blocking funds from being used to work on “any regulations applicable to food manufacturers for population-wide sodium reduction actions or to develop, issue, promote or advance final guidance applicable to food manufacturers for long term population-wide sodium reduction actions until the date on which a dietary reference intake report with respect to sodium is completed.”

Politico also points out that the previous draft of the appropriation bill merely encouraged FDA to delay its salt reduction proposal until the reference intake report is updated (this, by the way, will take years).

More documents: