What do food industry leaders really think about science, public health and medical organizations?
A new study in the journal Critical Public Health, based on a document authored by a senior Coca-Cola and food industry leader, lays out what appears to be the food industry’s roadmap for dealing with global scientific, regulatory and public health and public relations challenges. The document was obtained via state FOIA by U.S. Right to Know, a food industry watchdog group.
The document explains how food industry leaders “have to use external organizations” when dealing with controversies over the health risks of their products.
“The document is striking because it shows how the food industry thinks of medical and public health societies and professionals as pawns,” said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know. “It is important for medical and public health professionals to know how the food industry treats them – as instruments to be coolly manipulated — so that they do not fall into industry traps.”
The study states: “This paper provides direct evidence that senior leaders in the food industry advocate for a deliberate and co-ordinated approach to influencing scientific evidence and expert opinion. Importantly, the food industry seeks to do this by co-opting academic contacts, infiltrating major scientific bodies and medical associations, and influencing the generation of scientific evidence.”
The study, titled “How Food Companies Influence Evidence and Opinion – Straight from the Horse’s Mouth,” analyzes an email written by Michael Ernest Knowles, a former vice president of global scientific and regulatory affairs for Coca-Cola, and former president of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), a prominent food industry front group. The email was sent to Alex Malaspina, a former senior vice president of Coca-Cola, and former president and founder of ILSI.
News articles, fact sheets and analysis about ILSI are available at: https://usrtk.org/our-investigations/.
The study was co-authored by Gary Sacks of Deakin University, Boyd Swinburne of the University of Auckland, Adrian Cameron of Deakin University, and Gary Ruskin of U.S. Right to Know.
U.S. Right to Know is a nonprofit organization that investigates the risks associated with the corporate food system, and the food industry’s practices and influence on public policy. For more information, see usrtk.org.