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Beyond nutrition and physical activity: food industry shaping of the very principles of scientific integrity

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Background There is evidence that food industry actors try to shape science on nutrition and physical activity. But they are also involved in influencing the principles of scientific integrity. Our research objective was to study the extent of that involvement, with a case study of ILSI as a key actor in that space. We conducted a qualitative document analysis, triangulating data from an existing scoping review, publicly available information, internal industry documents, and existing freedom of information requests. Results Food companies have joined forces through ILSI to shape the development of scientific integrity principles. These activities started in 2007, in direct response to the growing criticism of the food industry’s funding of research. ILSI first built a niche literature on COI in food science and nutrition at the individual and study levels. Because the literature was scarce on that topic, these publications were used and cited in ILSI’s and others’ further work on COI, scientific integrity, and PPP, beyond the fields of nutrition and food science. In the past few years, ILSI started to shape the very principles of scientific integrity then and to propose that government agencies, professional associations, non-for-profits, and others, adopt these principles. In the process, ILSI built a reputation in the scientific integrity space. ILSI’s work on scientific integrity ignores the risks of accepting corporate funding and fails to provide guidelines to protect from these risks. Conclusions The activities developed by ILSI on scientific integrity principles are part of a broader set of political practices of industry actors to influence public health policy, research, and practice. It is important to learn about and counter these practices as they risk shaping scientific standards to suit the industry’s interests rather than public health ones.
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R E S E A R C H Open Access
Beyond nutrition and physical activity: food
industry shaping of the very principles of
scientific integrity
Mélissa Mialon
1*
, Matthew Ho
2
, Angela Carriedo
3
, Gary Ruskin
4
and Eric Crosbie
5,2
Abstract
Background: There is evidence that food industry actors try to shape science on nutrition and physical activity. But
they are also involved in influencing the principles of scientific integrity. Our research objective was to study the
extent of that involvement, with a case study of ILSI as a key actor in that space. We conducted a qualitative
document analysis, triangulating data from an existing scoping review, publicly available information, internal
industry documents, and existing freedom of information requests.
Results: Food companies have joined forces through ILSI to shape the development of scientific integrity
principles. These activities started in 2007, in direct response to the growing criticism of the food industrys funding
of research. ILSI first built a niche literature on COI in food science and nutrition at the individual and study levels.
Because the literature was scarce on that topic, these publications were used and cited in ILSIs and othersfurther
work on COI, scientific integrity, and PPP, beyond the fields of nutrition and food science. In the past few years, ILSI
started to shape the very principles of scientific integrity then and to propose that government agencies,
professional associations, non-for-profits, and others, adopt these principles. In the process, ILSI built a reputation in
the scientific integrity space. ILSIs work on scientific integrity ignores the risks of accepting corporate funding and
fails to provide guidelines to protect from these risks.
Conclusions: The activities developed by ILSI on scientific integrity principles are part of a broader set of political practices
of industry actors to influence public health policy, research, and practice. It is important to learn about and counter these
practices as they risk shaping scientific standards to suit the industrys interests rather than public health ones.
Keywords: Conflitct of interest, Commercial determinants of health, Ethics, Food industry, Corporate political activity
Background
Actors in the tobacco, alcohol, and ultra-processed food
industries use a broad range of political strategies to
protect and expand their markets [14]. These practices
include direct influence on public health policy, and
more subtle actions like cultivating support from com-
munities and the media [14]. The shaping of science is
one of these political practices [58], as science can be
used to influence policy [911]. Studies that link the
consumption of harmful products to ill-health, or those
which provide evidence on the effectiveness of a policy
that limits consumption, are systematically questioned,
attacked, or undermined by companies and third parties
working on their behalf [58]. Industry actors are also
shaping the research agenda by funding commercially-
driven science (research supported by the industry) to
support their products or practices [12].
When evidence emerged about cigarette smokings
harmfulness in the 1960s, tobacco companies mounted
an attack on science to bury that evidence [13].
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data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
* Correspondence: melissa_mialon@hotmail.fr;mialonm@tcd.ie
1
Trinity Business School, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Full list of author information is available at the end of the article
Mialon et al. Globalization and Health (2021) 17:37
https://doi.org/10.1186/s12992-021-00689-1
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
However, the tobacco industry understood that it could
not credibly question scientific evidence criticizing its
products. In the 1980s and 1990s, tobacco companies
developed a sound scienceprogram, hiring respected
academics and scientists and using third parties to deny
secondhand smokes harmful effects [14,15]. Through
this program, tobacco companies intended to shape sci-
entific proof standards so that no study could prove that
secondhand smoking was harmful [14,15]. In response,
in 2003, the World Health Organization adopted a
Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, in which
Article 5.3 insulated public health policymaking from
the tobacco industry [16]. Although the implementation
of Article 5.3 is successful in some contexts [17] and
could serve as a model for other industries [18], the to-
bacco industry is still able to participate in the develop-
ment of principles for using scientific evidence in policy
along with academics and government officials [19].
Similar to the tobacco industry, the food industry also
shapes science, through the funding and dissemination
of research and information serving its interests and crit-
icizes evidence that may thwart these interests [3,12,
20]. The food industry established and funded scientific-
sounding groups such as the International Life Science
Institute (ILSI), set up in 1978 by a former executive
from Coca-Cola, to push for its agenda in the scientific
and policy spaces [21]. ILSI also represented tobacco
companies in the 198090s [22,23]. ILSI is currently
composed of fifteen branches [24], each with a broad
range of industry and academic members. The global
branch of ILSI is governed by a Board of Trustees that
mixes employees from the food industry, including the
agribusiness sector (Ajinomoto, PepsiCo, Cargill) and ac-
ademics [25]. Industry-supported research is also subject
to peer-review by the industry itself. ILSI has its own
journal, Nutrition Reviews, amongst the most popular
journals in nutrition [26]. A recent study found that Nu-
trition Reviews has the highest proportion of articles
with industry involvement (a quarter of all articles from
that journal) amongst the top top 10 journals in nutri-
tion [26].
From a public health perspective, somehow, the food
industrys involvement in science and policy is not seen
as controversial and harmful as that of the tobacco in-
dustry [27,28]. Some think there is a space for collabor-
ation with that industry, as illustrated in a recent study
that tried to build consensus on the interactions between
researchers and the food industry [29]. When criticism
of the food industrys involvement in science grew in the
2000s [3032], ILSI developed guidelines on conflicts of
interest (COI) and scientific integrity [20]. These princi-
ples call for the involvement of all actors in science, in-
cluding those from industry actors, and are, not
surprisingly, silent on the risks associated with such
engagement with industry actors [20,33]. While there is
growing evidence of the food industrys involvement in
science on nutrition and physical activity, little is known
of their broader influence on the very principles of sci-
entific integrity.
Our objective was to study the extent of the food
industrys involvement in developing scientific integrity
principles, with a case study of ILSI as a key actor in that
space.
Methods
We conducted a qualitative document analysis between
FebruaryNovember 2020, where we triangulated mul-
tiple sources of information. We started with initial
searches based on an existing scoping review on princi-
ples for the interactions between researchers and the
food industry. MH conducted searches on the industrys
websites, their social media, and in the Food Industry
Documents Library of the University of California, San
Francisco [34], an archive containing previously secret
internal industry documents. We also used documents
from existing freedom of information (FOI) requests
made by U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit investigative
public health group. MH and GR independently con-
ducted an initial review of the material for their inclu-
sion against our research objective. MM led the searches
on Web of Science and data analysis for all sources of
information.
We searched these sources for information related to
the development of principles, codes of conduct, frame-
works, standards, or other scientific integrity guidelines
and responsible research. An analysis of the content and
implementation of those principles was beyond the
scope of our study.
For the present study, we used the definition of scien-
tific integrityfrom the U.S. National Research Council:
Integrity characterizes both individual researchers and
the institutions in which they work. For individuals, it is
an aspect of moral character and experience. For institu-
tions, it is a matter of creating an environment that pro-
motes responsible conduct by embracing standards of
excellence, trustworthiness, and lawfulness that inform
institutional practices. For the individual scientist, integ-
rity embodies above all a commitment to intellectual
honesty and personal responsibility for ones actions and
to a range of practices that characterize responsible re-
search conduct[35].
Initial identification of industry actors
In 2019, MM conducted a backward search, using a re-
cent scoping review by Cullerton et al. and a commen-
tary published in response to that review [36,37]. The
scoping review was purposively selected for our initial
searches because it represented the most recent and
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comprehensive summary of existing principles to guide
interactions between population health researchers and
the food industry[36]. The publications identified in the
scoping review included work that was funded inde-
pendently but also work that was supported by the food
industry. A response to that review identified additional
material from the review sponsored by the food industry
[37]. These publications constituted our initial samples
of scientific integrity documents developed with industry
support (Table 1). This initial sample only included doc-
uments where the food industry had direct involvement,
through the declarations of interest sections or funding
acknowledgments sections or institutions to which the
authors were affiliated. By food industry, we meant any
actor along the food supply chain, in the production of
raw material, manufacturing, marketing, retailing, and
public relations sectors, as well as third parties working
on their behalf. We only included those publications that
proposed scientific integrity principles, not those broadly
discussing the industrys involvement in science, without
providing any guidelines (such as [47,48]). We also ex-
cluded publications on the implementation of such prin-
ciples at the organizational level, as falling outside the
present studys scope.
With these initial searches, we identified five docu-
ments: three scientific articles and two reports. The
North American branch of ILSI published four of the
five publications, with support from large US-based food
manufacturers. Two authors from ILSI also published a
fifth article with an author from DuPont Nutrition
(DuPont), a dietary supplement manufacturer for the
food industry. Therefore, we decided to restrict our fol-
lowing searches to ILSI and DuPont, as they were the
only industry actors publishing in the peer-reviewed lit-
erature on the topic of scientific integrity.
Systematic searches on web of science
As a second step, we conducted a literature search to
identify further publications on the topic by the ILSI and
DuPont, based on the findings of our initial search. On
14 November 2020, MM searched Web of Science Core
Collection (Web of Knowledge interface) (our search
strategy is available in Additional file 1).
We used the terms (principle* or guid* or codes of
conductor framework* or standard* or transparen* or
fund*) AND (partner* or integrity or ethic* or inter*) as
identified in the titles of publications. We refined the
search to publications from ILSI and DuPont, as stated
Table 1 List of food industry actors that have published principles on the interactions between researchers and the food industry
and/or on COI in science
Title of publication Published
in a
scientific
journal?
Publication
year
Name of
industry actor(s)
involved in the
publication
Nature of the involvement
Funding food science and nutrition research:
financial conflicts and scientific integrity [published
in multiple outlets [3842]]
Yes 2009 ILSI This paper is the product of a working group
on conflict of interest/scientific integrity
organized by the North American branch of
the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI
North America). It was supported in part by
educational grants from Cadbury Adams U.S.,
LLC, the Coca-Cola Company, ConAgra Foods
Inc., General Mills, Kraft Foods, Mars Snack-
foods U.S., LLC, PepsiCo Inc., Procter & Gamble,
Sara Lee, and Tate & Lyle.
Published in an ILSI journal, Nutrition Reviews.
Ensuring Scientific Integrity: Guidelines for
Managing Conflicts [43] [International Union of
Food Science and Technology - Scientific
Information Bulletin, based on [38]]
No 2012 ILSI Supported by the ILSI North America Scientific
Integrity Working Group, prepared by the
authors of Funding food science and nutrition
research: financial conflicts and scientific
integrityfrom ILSI
Principles for building public-private partnerships to
benefit food safety, nutrition, and health research
[44]
Yes 2013 ILSI This article was commissioned by ILSI North
America.
Several authors from ILSI North America, and
one from Coca-Cola, and another from Kellogg
Company.
Principles and Philosophies for Development of
Ongoing Partnerships to Support Food-Health Re-
search [45] [Food for Health Workshop - Canadian
Nutrition Society Annual Meeting]
No 2014 ILSI Partnership between the Nutrition Society and
ILSI.
Achieving a transparent, actionable framework for
public-private partnerships for food and nutrition
research [46]
Yes 2015 ILSI &
DuPont
Nutrition
Two authors were employees of ILSI, and one
author employee of DuPont Nutrition and
Health.
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Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
in the declarations of interest sections; funding acknowl-
edgments sections; or institutions to which the authors
were affiliated. We had no restriction on the publication
time.
All data were extracted from WoS and managed on
Mendeley. The publications retrieved from that search
were screened for eligibility, based on their titles and ab-
stracts. All data were independently double-screened by
A.C. There was no disagreement on the inclusion of
documents.
From these systematic searches, no relevant work by
DuPont was identified; we, therefore, further restricted
our searches for the next steps and focused on ILSI only.
Industry websites and twitter accounts
MH, with support from EC, identified all websites and
Twitter accounts of ILSI Global and its fifteen branches.
ILSIs websites are presented in Additional file 2.MH
searched these websites, and social media accounts, for
information related to the development of scientific in-
tegrity principles. MM then analyzed all data. Our data
collection was limited to data available on these web-
sites, and we did not use internet archives to retrieve
data that may have been published and then subse-
quently deleted. In February 2021, ILSI North America
transformed into the Institute for the Advancement of
Food and Nutrition Sciences(IAFNS), a a non-profit
organization that catalyzes science for the benefit of
public health[49]. The URLs for ILSI NAs webpages in
Additional file 2now redirect to the new IAFNS website.
The webpages consulted during data collection could
still be consulted using internet acrchives tools like the
Wayback Machine [50].
Archive from industry documents library
Between February and July 2020, MH searched food in-
dustry documents in the Food Industry Documents Li-
brary of the University of California, San Francisco [34],
using standard snowball search methods [51]. Initial key-
word search terms included ILSI,International Life
Sciences Institute,research integrity, and research
transparency. Twenty-one documents between 2012 and
2018 were located, with most records dated between
2015 and 2017. Documents were screened (MH) and an-
alyzed (MH and MM) for the direct mentioning of infor-
mation outlining ILSIs development of scientific
integrity principles. Sixteen documents were deemed
relevant based on how applicable their contents were to
the research objective.
Documents from existing FOI requests
Additionally, we drew upon nine U.S. federal and state
FOI data sets to triangulate our other sources of infor-
mation: (1) Louisiana State University (Tim Church); (2)
University of Colorado (John Peters); (3) Louisiana State
University (Peter Katzmarzyk); (4) Texas A&M Univer-
sity (Joanne Lupton); (5) Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (Maureen Culbertson); (6) University of
Colorado (James Hill); (7) University of South Carolina
(Steven Blair); (8) Louisiana State University (Pennington
Biomedical Research Center); (9) U.S. Department of
Agriculture (David Klurfeld). U.S. Right to Know filed
these FOI requests between 17 July 2015 and 27 Decem-
ber 2017. The requests covered issues regarding sugar
sweetened beverages, candy and food companies, and
their public relations firms, trade associations, and other
allied organizations. The identification of relevant docu-
ments for our study was made by GR and his colleague
Rebecca Morrison, for their relevance to our research
objective.
Analysis
In November 2020, MM reviewed all data from the
sources mentioned above and mapped the actors, time-
line of events, and other relevant information related to
the food industrys involvement in the development of
scientific integrity principles. In the present manuscript,
we present a narrative synthesis of our findings. All au-
thors reviewed the analysis and presentation of findings
in the manuscript. We had regular meetings during data
collection and analysis, and any disagreement was re-
solved through discussion within the team. Our existing
knowledge informed our analysis of industry influence
on science. In the present document, we use the acro-
nym ILSIto refer to ILSI North-America, unless other-
wise stated. In the results section, we use a code starting
with the letter A to refer to our data, all available in
Additional file 3.
Results
Our Web of Science systematic searches yielded 42 pub-
lications, 33 of which were excluded as not meeting our
inclusion criteria. In addition, one article from 2014, by
an author from DuPont, discussed funding by the food
industry but did not provide any specific guidelines, so it
was excluded [52]. There were eight publications rele-
vant to our research objective on WoS, for our sample
of food industry actors. Amongst these eight publica-
tions, five were already identified through our initial
searches (Table 1-[38,44,46]) with three copies of the
same article by ILSI published in different scientific jour-
nals simultaneously. The three other studies were also
published by ILSI [5355]. With our searches in internal
documents, we found two other publications from the
food industry on scientific integrity, both supported by
ILSI [56,57].
In total, we found eight scientific papers from ILSI on
scientific integrity, published between 2009 and 2019. In
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Nov 2020, when writing the current manuscript, these
documents were, when combined, cited 364 times (Goo-
gle Scholar). ILSI also presented its principles in scien-
tific events, reports, and other platforms, as described in
Table 1and below.
Additional file 4presents a list of authors who pub-
lished these scientific papers: 63 authors in total, 24
(38%) were from the food industry (as disclosed in the
publications). Other authors were from academia, gov-
ernment agencies, and professionals associations,
amongst other institutions (see Additional file 4). The
majority of the authors were U.S.-based (70%). Five indi-
viduals authored four publications (the maximum for a
single author), four of them from ILSI and one from
academia.
Of note, ILSI promotes these publications on its web-
site, stating, ILSI North America has become a leader in
scientific integrity and public-private research partner-
ships for the food and nutrition community. Our work
has been published in peer-reviewed journals, endorsed
by Federal agencies and professional nutrition and food
science societies, and cited broadly throughout the scien-
tific community[58].
Figure 1summarizes our findings.
In the period 20092015, ILSI published articles on
conflicts of interest that mainly covered food science, of
relevance to food companies, and nutrition, a sub-field
of health sciences. During that period, the target audi-
ence was researchers. In 2013, a shift occurred, from
publishing recommendations on conflicts of interest and
the good conduct of research, particularly at the individ-
ual and study levels, to proposing guidelines for public-
private partnerships (PPP), assuming that PPP would
benefit nutrition research. Then, from 2015, ILSI began
to target a broader audience, outside academia, such as
government agencies and civil society organizations, in
its development of scientific integrity principles. At that
time, ILSI also started targeting the entire scientific field,
and not only the area of nutrition and health.
20072012: addressing COI in food science and nutrition
research
Based on the information we collected, ILSIs develop-
ment of scientific integrity principles started in 2007. At
that time, the organization initiated a program to ad-
dress COI issues, with the rationale that despite a
wealth of benefits industry sponsored research and sci-
ence programs have provided, there continues to be sig-
nificant public debate on the credibility of such support
[A1]. Over the period 20072012, ILSI published COI
principles focusing on food science and nutrition re-
search. These publications resulted from different meet-
ings of individuals from the food and agro-industries
and academia. At that time, ILSI published on financial
conflicts and scientific integrity in food science and nu-
trition research [3842].
The first publication is from 2009. The paper origi-
nated from a working group at ILSI, the COI and scien-
tific integrityworking group, and was supported by ten
food companies through educational grantsto ILSI
[3842]. Its authors included a mix of employees from
ILSI, food companies (Coca-Cola, Kraft, PepsiCo, Cad-
bury, and Mars), and academics in food science, nutri-
tion, and pediatrics from the U.S. and Canada [3842].
ILSI said it published this material in six different scien-
tific journals [A2], although we found no trace of the
publication in the Journal of Food Science. The article
was published in Nutrition Reviews, a journal run by
ILSI, the only one of the six journals where the article
underwent peer-review. The Academy of Nutrition and
Fig. 1 Food industrys development of scientific integrity principles overtime
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Dietetics (formerly American Dietetic Association), who
published one copy in its journal, and the American So-
ciety for Nutrition (ASN), who published three copies in
its American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Journal of
Nutrition, and Nutrition Today, are known to be
industry-friendly and receive funding from the food in-
dustry [20,59,60], which may explain their willingness
to publish the paper. The 2009 publication was also
adapted, in 2012, into a report of the International
Union of Food Science and Technology [38].
In 2011, the ILSI Europes Functional Foods Task
Force published guidelines for the design, conduct and
reporting of human intervention studies to evaluate the
health benefits of foods[53]. The paper named 38 food
(including agribusiness) and pharmaceutical companies
as members of the taskforce [53]. Amongst the list of au-
thors of the article, six were from the food industry
(ILSI, Danone, DuPont (Danisco), Nestlé, and Beneo),
three were consultants, and five were academics [53].
In a 2012 letter to ILSI members, Rhona Applebaum,
then ILSIs President and Coca-Colas chief health- and
science officer, concluded the program has been highly
successful in developing guiding principlesfor industry
funding of research[A2]. The success was in the guide-
lines being endorsed by the leadership of three major
professional societies. Results of this work have been pub-
lished in six different peer-reviewed journals and pre-
sented at numerous scientific conferences[A2]. In that
same correspondence, Applebaum sent a list of ILSIs
publications on scientific integrity, where one additional
article published in 2011 was included. The latter dis-
cussed funding in nutrition research and was published
with support from ILSI [56]. The publication was written
by four individuals: two from the AND, a consultant,
and an academic [56].
20122015: pushing for public-private partnerships in
nutrition research
The period 20122013 was a turning point for ILSI,
where the discussion on COI in science shifted to the
use of science in policy. In her 2012 letter mentioned
above to ILSI members, Applebaum stated that there
was a demand by some that all industry-funded re-
search, whether conducted at contract research organiza-
tions or universities, be denied consideration in the
formulation of public policy. Furthermore, scientists who
have conducted industry-funded research have been
barred from serving on public advisory committees[A2].
Applebaum, therefore, called ILSIs food companies
members for the development of criteria for participa-
tion on scientific advisory panels and establishment of
appropriate protocols for successful public/private part-
nerships to advance public health[A2]. Food companies
were asked to contribute to this task by paying a fee of
US$10,000 each [A2].
Therefore, a series of ILSIs publications on PPP ap-
peared in the scientific literature between 2012 and
2015. In 2012, ILSIsCOI and scientific integritywork-
ing group produced two publications. The first provided
suggestions on selecting experts to advise in public pol-
icy decision making [57]. The second publication, pub-
lished in Nutrition Reviews, proposed principles for
building public-private partnerships to benefit food
safety, nutrition, and health research[44]. The authors
of both publications were a mix of academic experts on
the topic, industry employees, and ILSIs staff.
In January 2014, in a personal communication to
prominent physical activity researchers from the US,
Applebaum explained that she asked ILSI to consider
drafting a set of principles on civil discourse in science by
scientists similar to what they have done for conflict of
interest and public private partnerships.She also men-
tioned: There must be a set of guidelines to avoid the
current demonizing. They [ILSI] had also been asked to
work on principles re selection on govt panels since our
own U.S. govt has raised the issue of working w/ industry
as a criterion for non-inclusion[A4].
This idea soon translated into concrete action. ILSI
first published an article that offers counsel on meeting
[challenges] in communicating about the work of emer-
ging public-private partnerships[61]. This article does
not set principles on scientific integrity per se. Still, it is
to be understood as part of ILSIs work in promoting
PPP as a means to pursue industry interests.
In 2014, ILSI also started working with third parties
on PPP principles, thus accelerating the translation of
their work into practice and policy. ILSI proposed to
have a manuscript to share with FDA [U.S. Food and
Drug Administration] on best practices for advisory
committees, when the FDA was developing its own
COI guidelines [A9].
In parallel, during late 2013, the ASN approached
ILSI North America to collaborate[A109] on activities
that would stimulate the expansion, accessibility, and
acceptance of PPPs by unifying and moving existing prin-
ciples for food and nutrition research PPPs forward
[A49]. The ASN convened representatives from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, ASN, Academy of Nutrition
and Dietetics, American Heart Association, Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, FDA, Grocery Manu-
facturers Association, and National Institutes for Health,
amongst others [A50]. An individual from the U.S. De-
partment of Agriculture, Klurfeld, and Rowe, a consult-
ant for ILSI, co-chaired a newly formed Working Group
on Conflict of Interest & Scientific Integrity[a name
similar to that of ILSIsCOI and scientific integrity
working group] [A101, A145]. In 2014, the working
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group had regular emails, calls, and a face-to-face group
meeting in December [later called the COI Summit
Consortium], to agree on a set of PPP principles [A10
5, A2930]. An ad-hoc steering group was also formed
with three USDA staff and a consultant from ILSI, and
an ASN staff member [A29].
The whole project was formally led through a U.S.
government-wide Interagency Committee on Human Nu-
trition Research[A29]. It was formed in 2011 and in-
cluded a component on PPP, in part in response to [a]
2011 Presidential memo directing agencies to develop
public-private partnerships in areas of importance to an
agencys mission[A29]. In our FOI documents and
when justifying the PPP, the ASN made further refer-
ence to President Obama, who issued a Presidential
memorandum in July 2014 encouraging government at
all levels to work with private partners on developing in-
frastructure to lay the foundation for future prosperity
[A41].
In May 2014, an employee from ILSI sent an email to
lead American researchers and employees of federal
agencies (U.S. Government Accountability Office and
National Institutes for Health), describing the proposed
outcome of the newly formed PPP project, a summit or
collection of major professional societies and federal
agencies coming together in support of PPP principles (
). At the conclusion of the summit, the professional so-
cieties would agree to a consensus statement on private
funding for research and general acceptance of principles
for PPPs ( ). it might be helpful for societies who pub-
lish journals to have their editors participate in summit
[A8].
Soon after, in 2015, a peer-reviewed paper outlining
the PPP principles in food and nutrition research was
published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition [46] and
an excerpt of the article appeared in the Journal of the
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Journal of Food Sci-
ence, Nutrition Reviews, and Nutrition Today[A66]. In
the publication, the authors made clear that the group
took the ILSI North America published principles as a
starting point[46], given that most reports were not
readily accessible in the public domain until, in 2013, a
group organized by ( )ILSI North America ( ) pub-
lished proposed criteria[46]. The principles were en-
dorsed by the ASN, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,
American Gastroenterological Association, Institute of
Food Technologists, International Association for Food
Protection, and ILSI, collectively representing approxi-
mately 113,000 professionals[A31]. The American Pub-
lic Health Association declined to endorse the principles
but did not justify its decision [A24].
On 16 June 2015, the PPP principles were launched at
the National Academy of Sciences. ILSI, in its internal
communication, talked of the event and principles as its
own: There is a meeting today at the National Acad-
emies to discuss [PPP] as defined by work that ILSI North
America did. ASN and U.S. Department of Agriculture
organized the meeting and we expect a number of scien-
tific organizations to adopt the ILSI North America prin-
ciples[A26, A34]. Speakers at that event included the
U.S. Department of Agriculture Chief Scientist and
Under Secretary, Research, Education, and Economics
Dr. Catherine Woteki (keynote address), as well as an
ILSI consultant, and an Institute of Medicine Senior
Scholar, amongst others [A15, A31].
ILSI and the ASN also had other avenues for dissemin-
ating the PPP principles, as detailed in Table 2. The
ASN and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics were
also keen to support a Conclave on public-private part-
nerships, where a Declaration would be issued to pro-
vide a transparent and actionable framework for
interested public and private organizations that will
minimize external criticism[A110].
Therefore, by having built its own literature on COI
principles, scientific integrity, and PPP, and by reaching
out to potential allies outside the industry, ILSI naturally
became a central and pivotal actor in that discussion.
Hereafter, ILSI took yet another step in disseminating
its principles into the scientific and policy spheres, be-
yond that of nutrition research.
20152019: beyond nutrition, influencing the very
principles of scientific integrity
Hence, after having developed principles for research,
and having these principles used to create PPP, ILSI
started to evaluate the efforts made by a range of actors
to implement scientific integrity principles.
Indeed, in parallel to the work undertaken by the U.S.
government-wide Interagency Committee on Human Nu-
trition Researchworking group, ILSI, in 2015, through
its own working group, proposed to seek a broader
group of collaborators than we have previously worked
with in order to have a greater impact; ones that have
impeccable reputations and are not focused on only one
area of science. Possible candidates are: a. American As-
sociation for the Advancement of Science; b. Association
of Public and Land-grant Universities; c. Association of
American Universities; d. The National Academies
[A80]. ILSIs working group also suggested that ILSIs
focus should be on implementation of these principles/
best practices[A80]. The group also proposed that
when the COI Summit Consortium reconvene [s] in two
years to reassess the PPP principles ( ) ILSI North
America could introduce the principles/best practices for
scientific integrity and seek endorsement from the nutri-
tion, food science, and food safety professional societies
[A80].
Mialon et al. Globalization and Health (2021) 17:37 Page 7 of 13
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
As part of that work, in 2017, ILSI set up an Assembly
on Scientific Integrity, whose steering committee in-
cluded three academics from the University of Illinois,
the University of Wisconsin, and Tufts Medical Center,
and five employees from Coca Cola, General Mills, Ab-
bott Nutrition, Ocean Spray Cranberries and Biofortis
[A79]. The Assembly was made of ILSI North America
Board of Trustees, all Member Companies of ILSI North
America, and the ILSI North America Canadian Advis-
ory Committee[A58, A84]. The Assembly was also
hoping to include government liaisons in the Assembly
on Scientific Integrity and it is likely that the ILSI North
America Mid-Year meeting in Washington, DC is a bet-
ter location for government officials to be able to join in-
person[A107]. In 2017, the budget of the Assembly was
US$122,000 [A107].
Then, two authors from ILSI and one from academia,
also on the newly formed steering committee and author
of other ILSI publications, produced a review of efforts
by federal agencies, foundations, nonprofit organizations,
professional societies, and academia in the United States
[54]. The review was then translated into a Resource
Guide and regularly updated, and similar activity was
planned for Canada [A856, A98]. Here, the focus was
not on food science and nutrition anymore, and the art-
icle reported on efforts made by a broad range of institu-
tions like the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, the Committee on Publication Ethics, the In-
stitute Of Medicine, and the Laura and John Arnold
Foundation [54]. The article was published in Critical
Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. ILSI seems to
have opened a discussion that is meant to last in that
space by inviting readers to help keep this document
current by pointing out areas that need to be expanded
or updated or additional organizations that should be in-
cluded[54].
ILSIscientific integrity working group also proposed
to develop and publish a second paper in collaboration
with [the American Association for the Advancement of
Science, the Association of Public and Land-grant Uni-
versities, and the Association of American Universities]
that builds on the first manuscript ( ) to establish the
firstrulebook on scientific integrity[A81]. ILSI con-
vened a meeting in March 2017, where a broad range of
actors would discuss the new scientific integrity princi-
ples [A86, A101]. The new Scientific Integrity Consor-
tiumwas made of representatives from four U.S.
government agencies, three Canadian government agen-
cies, eleven professional societies, six universities, and
three nonprofit scientific organizations[A57, A86,
A101]. The meeting was organized at the National Acad-
emies of Science, Engineering and Medicine as part of
the Government University Industry Research Roundta-
ble[A86, A101], in the same venue used for the launch
of the 2015 PPP principles. The group then continued to
meet virtually and in-person in 2017 and 2018 [A57,
A69, A86]. The Scientific Integrity Principles and Best
Practiceswere finally published in 2019 in Science and
Engineering Ethics [55], reaching a broader audience
than merely the nutrition space. ILSI was satisfied that
the convening of the Scientific Integrity Consortium was
a significant step for ILSI North America in building
upon our work on scientific integrity and engaging the
scientific community beyond the nutrition and food safety
community[A86]. The long COI section in that publi-
cation reports on the many interactions between several
of its authors and industry actors [55]. Here again, the
Consortium used ILSIs 2017 findings as the basis of the
discussion and reconstructed them to form the final set of
recommended principles and best practices for scientific
integrity[55], in combination to some work of the
American Society for Microbiology on that topic.
The scientific integrity principles, like those for PPP,
were disseminated through different scientific events, in
what ILSI called a roadshow[A104] (see Table 3for a
list of events), with the goal of educating attendees (with
Table 2 list of scientific events were the PPP principles were disseminated
Name of event Activity undertaken, when information is available
Experimental Biology 2013 An ILSI staff co-moderated the Public-Private Partnerships: The Evolving Role of Industry
Funding in Nutrition Research””
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food &
Nutrition Conference & Expo 2015
ASN April 2016 Scientific Sessions and Annual
Meeting
3rd and 4th World Conference on Research Integrity ILSI attended the event, in the 3rd edition, a staff from ILSI participated in a panel discussion
on public-private partnerships and research integrity.
12th Federation of European Nutrition Societies -
European Nutrition Conference
Congress of the Federation of Latin American
Nutrition Societies 2015
ILSI attended and may be able to distribute copies of article
Mialon et al. Globalization and Health (2021) 17:37 Page 8 of 13
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
a focus on young researchers/post docs) on the compo-
nents of scientific integrity[A81]. This time, the audi-
ence reached beyond that of nutrition.
In some of these events, ILSIs official role in develop-
ing the principles was presented as a Consortium mem-
ber, not its convener [A71]. In October 2017, ILSI
shared its Resource Guide directly with the World Con-
ferences on Research Integrity Foundation, who consid-
ered using the material for their work [A73, A87]. ILSI,
at that time, was seeking to collaborate with the Founda-
tion to further expand its principles globally [A73, A87].
ILSI also planned to develop a training module to imple-
ment the new scientific integrity principles and a certifi-
cation program or accreditation ( ) for individuals or
organizations to certify their use of the principles and
best practices. ( ). It would be beneficial if government
agencies would require the certification or accreditation
in order to apply for a grant[A106].
ILSI is now planning to share what weve learned with
the entire federation of global ILSI entities[A67]. ILSI
NAs 2019 Mid-Year Science Program included a pres-
entation on the Benefits of More Transparent Research
Practices and Bias Reduction Toolsfrom a speaker from
the Center for Open Science [A59]. ILSI started collab-
orating with that Center in 2017 [A74, A78]. In 2017 as
well, ILSI Argentina formed a new Scientific Integrity
Group [A107]. In 2019, the Brazilian branch of ILSI put
the question of scientific integrity in the food area as the
main topic of its annual congress [A64], with speakers
from different Brazilian federal agencies and universities.
That same year, an academic from Chile gave a presen-
tation on scientific integrity for the South Andean
branch of ILSI [A65].
ILSI continues to try to drive the discussion on scien-
tific integrity in the present COVID-19 pandemic con-
text. In November 2020, ILSI held a webinar where
invited experts [discussed] some of the challenges that
exist for scientists and journals when attempts are made
to correct the scientific record - through retractions, cor-
rections or letters/commentaries, in response to the
heightened visibility of retracted publications during the
COVID-19 pandemic[A68]. The experts in question in-
cluded some of the authors of the ILSIs publications
presented in our study.
Discussion
In our study, we found that ILSI is a leading actor, not
only in the food industry but more broadly in the scien-
tific community, on the development of scientific integ-
rity standards and principles. Internal and FOI
documents revealed the food companiesmotives in de-
veloping scientific integrity principles. Food companies
have joined forces through ILSI, funded its first activities
on COI, and have 38% of the authorship of its scientific
Table 3 list of scientific events were the scientific integrity principles were disseminated
Name of event Activity undertaken, when information is available
AND Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE)
2018
An oral presentation planned by the ASN and ILSI NA
American Public Health Association 2018 Annual
Meeting
An oral presentation, where supported by the Scientific Integrity Consortium. ILSI North
America is an active member of the Consortium.
American Association for the Advancement of
Science 2019 Annual Meeting
5th and 6th World Conference on Research Integrity ILSI attended the event
Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
Association of American Universities
American Society of Nutrition- Experimental
Biology
International Association for Food Protection
Canadian Nutrition Society
Canadian Child Health Clinician Scientist Program
Canadian Institute of Food Science and
Technology
Society of Toxicology
Society for Risk Analysis
Institute of Food Technologists
International Union of Food Science and
Technology
International Society for Behavioral Nutrition and
Physical Activity
Committee on Publication Ethics
World Association of Medical Editors
International Committee of Medical Journal
Editors
Council for Responsible Nutrition
Retraction Watch
Other potential venues identified by ILSI
Mialon et al. Globalization and Health (2021) 17:37 Page 9 of 13
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
integrity publications. We have shown that ILSI built a
niche literature, one that would become useful for the
food industry, when criticism of its funding of re-
searchers emerged in the U.S. in the mid-2000s [30,32].
ILSI first focused on COI in food science and nutrition
at the individual and study levels, from 2007. Because
the literature was scarce on that topic, its publications
were used and cited in ILSIs and othersfurther work
on COI, scientific integrity and PPP, beyond the field of
nutrition and food science. In the past few years, ILSI
started to shape the very principles of scientific integrity
then and to propose that government agencies, profes-
sional associations, non-for-profits, and others, adopt
these principles. In the process, ILSI built a reputation
in the scientific integrity space. Our study found that
ILSI proposed a compulsory certification or accredit-
ation, based on the adoption of its scientific integrity
principles, for anyone willing to apply for a research
grant. If that were to happen, then ILSI could make it
impossible to avoid adhering to its principles. Transpar-
ency is often prioritized as per ILSIs current scientific
integrity principles and by government agencies and sci-
entific journals. Transparency should, however, be
understood as only one aspect of scientific integrity. It is
reasonable to promote the involvement of a broad range
of actors in science and to promote good principles for
the use of evidence in policy, but ILSIs work on scien-
tific integrity ignores the risks associated with accepting
industry funding [20,37] and fails to provide guidelines
to protect from these risks [19,37].
It may be that not all individuals and organizations
cited in our manuscript were aware that ILSI was
founded and is funded by food companies, and that it is
food companies that are shaping scientific integrity prin-
ciples. ILSI, in its publications and communications, pre-
sents itself as an independent organization. However, in
several of the documents consulted for our study, such
as minutes of meetings and emails, and in the scientific
publications mentioned here, industry actors were omni-
present. This reveals a state of affairs where the food in-
dustry is seen as a legitimate actor in science and policy
and where academics see no problem in working with
industry actors [28]. In the very process of developing
scientific integrity principles, food companies may use
their connections with these reputable individuals and
organizations to further their influence on science and
policy [62,63].
What we describe here will not be a surprise for ILSI,
as they are transparent on these activities, the re-
searchers they fund and indeed promote these principles
widely. Some of the information we found during our
study was indeed made public. However, internal and
FOI documents revealed the true intentions of ILSI be-
hind their development of scientific integrity principles.
This study is novel and builds on several sources to
triangulate its findings. Internal industry documents pro-
vide a unique behind the scenes look at industry activity
and reveal and expose industry behavior rather than
speculating about it. This study also has limitations.
First, it was beyond the articles scope to examine all the
COI that the individuals identified in our study had with
ILSI or other actors in the food industry. Hence, it is
highly likely that their relationships extend beyond their
authorship on the publications identified here. It is also
possible that these authors have published on scientific
integrity elsewhere without disclosing their links with
ILSI and the food industry. For example, Rowe, a con-
sultant for ILSI on scientific integrity since 2009, pub-
lished in 2015 a summary of the activities undertaken by
ILSI in that space, in one of the chapters, entitled Prin-
ciples for Building Public/Private Partnerships to Benefit
Public Health, in the book Integrity In The Global Re-
search Arena[64]. In the chapter, there is no reference
to the fact that Rowe worked for ILSI and that ISLI has
ties with food industry actors. Nevertheless, a broader
extent of industry participation would not change the es-
sence of the current findings. Second, this study neither
evaluated the content and scientific merit of the scien-
tific integrity principles developed by ILSI and others,
nor their implementation. Lastly, our primary focus was
ILSIs work, as our initial searches pointed in that direc-
tion, hence potentially leaving out some other work on
scientific integrity from other companies and industries,
like the pharmaceutical industry. This could be the sub-
ject of future investigations.
Our study goes beyond what we know of the food
industrys nutrition and physical activity research fund-
ing. It shows that the food industry, like the alcohol and
tobacco industries [19], tries to influence sciences very
principles, such as scientific integrity and the good con-
duct of research. Similar to the findings of Ong and
Glantz, published 20 years ago on the tobacco industry,
the activities described in our paper reflect sophisticated
public relations campaigns controlled by industry execu-
tives ( ) whose aim is to manipulate the standards of
scientific proof to serve the corporate interests of their cli-
ents[14]. Importantly, public health professionals
should understand the activities presented here as only
one of many practices through which the food industry
tries to influence science and policy [15]. This reinforces
the call for considering researching the political practices
undertaken across industries [65].
Conclusions
ILSIs work on scientific integrity, conflicts of interest
and public-private partnerships waters down independ-
ent work in that space, puts profits before science, and
undermines efforts to address undue influence of
Mialon et al. Globalization and Health (2021) 17:37 Page 10 of 13
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
industry actors on public policy, research, and practice.
The industry-established principles have already shaped
the evidence on scientific integrity. In the scoping review
we identified as a starting point for our searches by Cul-
lerton et al. [36], 14 of the 54 documents included in the
review were funded or had involvement of the food in-
dustry, despite the clear vested interests that the food in-
dustry has in that discussion [37]. Mc Cambridge et al.
recently wrote that calls for research integrity reflect
core values of the research community. They should not
be used as instruments to undermine science or to assist
harmful industries[19]. Therefore, it is crucial that the
public health community monitors this work done by
ILSI and others and recognizes that seemingly independ-
ent organizations like ILSI may represent industrys in-
terests [15,19]. This is even more crucial now that ILSI
North America transformed itself nto the Institute for
the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences,a
new organization that lacks transparency about its ties
with the industry and whose current and future activities
remain to be studied [49]. It risks shaping public agen-
cieswork, which may not be aware of the issues dis-
cussed in our paper. The literature we have described
here must be understood not to have emerged from
within the dietetics or nutrition or even medical profes-
sions, but rather from the food industry [14].
Supplementary Information
The online version contains supplementary material available at https://doi.
org/10.1186/s12992-021-00689-1.
Additional file 1. Search strategy.
Additional file 2. Websites and Twitter accounts of the different
branches of ILSI.
Additional file 3. Authors on ILSIs publications on scientific integrity,
2009-2019.
Additional file 4. Authors on ILSIs publications on scientific integrity,
2009-2019.
Acknowledgements
Not applicable
Authorscontributions
MM led the conception of the work. MH, GR, and MM led data collection,
with support from EC and AC. MM led data analysis, with support from all
authors and the manuscripts writing. All authors have substantively revised
it. All authors have approved the submitted version. The corresponding
author attests that all listed authors meet authorship criteria and that no
others meeting the criteria have been omitted.
Funding
This work received funding from U.S. Right to Know, via a grant from the
Laura and John Arnold Foundation. The sponsor had no input in the study
design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the reports
writing; and in the decision to submit the article for publication. All authors
are independent of funders and had full access to all of the data in the
study. They can take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the
accuracy of the data analysis.
GR is an employee of U.S. Right to Know, whose major donors have been:
Organic Consumers Association ($907,500); Dr. Bronners Family Foundation
($500,000); Laura and John Arnold Foundation ($392,600); U.S. Small Business
Administration (loans) ($119,970); Westreich Foundation ($85,000); Schmidt
Family Foundation ($50,000); CrossFit Foundation ($50,000); Thousand
Currents ($42,500); Community Foundation of Western North Carolina
($25,000); Panta Rhea Foundation ($20,000); ImpactAssets ReGen Fund
($10,000); Aurora Foundation ($5,000); Janet Buck ($5,000).
Availability of data and materials
All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this
published article [and its supplementary information files].
Declarations
Ethics approval and consent to participate
Not applicable, we only used publicly available information.
Consent for publication
Not applicable.
Competing interests
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Author details
1
Trinity Business School, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.
2
School of
Community Health Sciences, University of Nevada, Reno, USA.
3
World Public
Health and Nutrition Association, London, UK.
4
U.S. Right to Know, Oakland,
USA.
5
Ozmen Institute for Global Studies, University of Nevada, Reno, USA.
Received: 8 January 2021 Accepted: 18 March 2021
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... Overall, expert recognition and emerging literature highlight the need for public education and policy change that can help reduce the oppression and discrimination inherent in these systems. Examples include: education and enforcement of equal eating disorder screening from healthcare providers across race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexual orientation, weight-and socioeconomic status (as well as healthcare provider education on implicit biases and stigmatizations about binge eating disorder) [76]; inclusion of minority and marginalized populations in eating disorder research [65]; equal funding for binge eating disorder research relative to other disorders of similar prevalence [77,78]; as well as consensus on which agencies should provide such funding; and public education and policy change in food industry practices that target minorities and abet binge eating [64,[79][80][81][82][83][84][85][86][87][88] Many themes herein highlight a paradigm shift from an old view that ascribes eating disorders to thin, affluent, white cis-gendered females (the "SWAG: skinny, white, affluent, girl" stereotype [89]) to a new recognition of populations of individuals with binge eating disorder who have been historically overlooked in the field. These populations include racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities but also extend to other non-white, affluent, cis-gendered female populations (e.g., males [68], individuals in "normally" sized/weighted/shaped bodies [68], and individuals with low socioeconomic status [34,47,68,73,90], especially those with past or present histories of food/nutrition insecurity [34,47,[73][74][75][90][91][92][93], or use of government assistance programs like SNAP, food stamps, or welfare [47,75,91,93]). ...
... Minority expert recognition of food industry practices designed to manipulate consumer choices (29%) is proportionately under-represented in peer reviewed journals and in the popular press [64,[79][80][81][82][83][84][85][86][87][88]. Experts and literature recognize that food environments and manufacturers can (and do) leverage food decisions by influencing variables known to control consumption that can also result in binge eating (e.g., marketing, packaging, container shape, portion size, product salience, and hedonic factors like salt, fat, sugar, and structure/texture) [80,86]. ...
... Literature-but not experts-also identifies food industry efforts to influence nutrition research and professional activities [82,83] through forming and funding "science-sounding" research institutes and journals used to develop and publish industry-supported studies and industry-benefiting guidelines on scientific integrity, conflict of interest, and publicprivate partnership, thus shaping the nature of the science that drives public policy to its benefit [82]. These practices are important to address because they influence food consumption in ways that can result in binge eating and specifically because they are not recognized by the majority of experts, suggesting they may not be known. ...
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... For progressive manufacturers, no legal limitation prevents immediate implementation of such an initiative; however, without legislative guidelines, it is unclear what percentage of the market would feel compelled to 'make it clearer'. The food industry has a poor reputation for taking positive health initiatives through self-regulation [60][61][62] and has been implicated in influencing policy processes in many countries [63][64][65][66]. Unfortunately, this intervention will still not aid consumers who lack basic nutritional knowledge to interpret information on food labels. ...
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This study explored how South African food labels could be improved, with a focus on comparison of front-of-pack (FOP) nutrition labels as a quick assessment tool to enhance customer evaluation of the overall healthiness of packaged food. The exploratory sequential mixed-methods design used qualitative interviews (n = 49) to gain insight into labeling challenges and select FOP nutrition labels for consumer testing. Consumers (n = 1261) randomly assessed two of six possible FOP nutrition labels relative to a ‘no-label’ control applied to a fictitious cereal product in 12 online surveys. A mixed-model analysis of variance was used to compare the differences in health ratings for the different FOP nutrition labels. The interviews revealed three themes for label improvement, that are presented over three time horizons. In terms of helping consumers identify less healthy products, the effect sizes were most prominent for health warnings (p < 0.01) and low health star ratings (p < 0.01). The findings of this research not only clarify whether FOP nutrition labeling formats used in other regions such as Europe, South America and Australia could be useful in the South African context, but they can assist policymakers and decision-makers in selecting an effective FOP label.
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Background: Sugar sweetened beverages (SSB) are a major source of sugar in the diet. Although trends in consumption vary across regions, in many countries, particularly LMICs, their consumption continues to increase. In response, a growing number of governments have introduced a tax on SSBs. SSB manufacturers have opposed such taxes, disputing the role that SSBs play in diet-related diseases and the effectiveness of SSB taxation, and alleging major economic impacts. Given the importance of evidence to effective regulation of products harmful to human health, we scrutinised industry submissions to the South African government's consultation on a proposed SSB tax and examined their use of evidence. Results: Corporate submissions were underpinned by several strategies involving the misrepresentation of evidence. First, references were used in a misleading way, providing false support for key claims. Second, raw data, which represented a pliable, alternative evidence base to peer reviewed studies, was misused to dispute both the premise of targeting sugar for special attention and the impact of SSB taxes on SSB consumption. Third, purposively selected evidence was used in conjunction with other techniques, such as selective quoting from studies and omitting important qualifying information, to promote an alternative evidential narrative to that supported by the weight of peer-reviewed research. Fourth, a range of mutually enforcing techniques that inflated the effects of SSB taxation on jobs, public revenue generation, and gross domestic product, was used to exaggerate the economic impact of the tax. This "hyperbolic accounting" included rounding up figures in original sources, double counting, and skipping steps in economic modelling. Conclusions: Our research raises fundamental questions concerning the bona fides of industry information in the context of government efforts to combat diet-related diseases. The beverage industry's claims against SSB taxation rest on a complex interplay of techniques, that appear to be grounded in evidence, but which do not observe widely accepted approaches to the use of either scientific or economic evidence. These techniques are similar, but not identical, to those used by tobacco companies and highlight the problems of introducing evidence-based policies aimed at managing the market environment for unhealthful commodities.
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Key to scientific integrity is ensuring that research findings are considered credible by scientific peers, practitioners, policymakers and the public. Industry sponsorship of nutritional research can result in bias and raises significant professional, public and media concern. Yet, there is no international consensus on how to prevent or manage conflicts of interest for researchers considering engaging with the food industry. This study aimed to determine internationally agreed principles to guide interactions between population health researchers and the food industry to prevent or manage conflicts of interest. We used a two-stage, online Delphi study for researchers (n = 100 in 28 countries), and an online survey for stakeholders (n = 84 in 26 countries). Levels of agreement were sought with 56 principles derived from a systematic review. Respondent comments were analysed using qualitative content analysis. High levels of agreement on principles were achieved for both groups (researchers 68%; stakeholders 65%). Highest levels of agreement were with principles concerning research methods and governance. More contentious were principles that required values-based decision-making, such as determining which elements of the commercial sector are acceptable to interact with. These results provide the basis for developing internationally-agreed guidelines for population health researchers governing interactions with the food industry.
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There is no explicit consensus amongst population health researchers regarding what constitutes acceptable or effective interactions with the food industry. This has led to confusion and disagreements over conflicts of interest, which can undermine the integrity of science. To clarify this issue, we aimed to systematically identify the key principles developed by population health researchers to prevent or minimize conflicts of interest when interacting with the food industry. Databases of peer‐reviewed literature were searched. In addition, an advanced Google search, a request to experts seeking related documents, and hand searching of references were undertaken. Thematic analysis of the extracted data was undertaken. We examined 54 eligible documents describing guidelines for population health researchers when interacting with the food industry. Fifty‐six principles were identified and synthesized in five themes. There were high levels of agreement in themes relating to research governance, transparency, and publication but less agreement and guidance on how principles should be applied in relation to funding and risk assessment. There is agreement on some of the general principles for preventing and minimizing conflicts of interests for population health researchers when interacting with the food industry. However, for issues such as assessing the appropriateness of an industry partner, greater clarity and consensus are required.
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Context: Industry influence on health science and policy is a critical issue of our day. In 2015, the New York Times revealed that Coca-Cola paid scientists to form a Global Energy Balance Network promoting the notion that exercise, not dietary restraint, is the solution to the obesity epidemic-a claim few accept. This article examines the organizational dynamics and policy process behind Coke's efforts to sway obesity policy, globally and in China, a critical market, during 1995-2015. Methods: In-depth, qualitative research during 2013-18 involved: 10 weeks of fieldwork in Beijing; interviews with 25 leading experts; analysis of newsletters documenting all major obesity-related activities in China; interviews with 12 Euro-American experts; extensive internet research on all major actors. Findings: This article tells two intertwined stories (institutional dynamics; science- and policymaking) at global and local-Chinese levels. Coke succeeded in redirecting China's obesity science and policy to emphasize physical activity. Key to its success was the industry-funded, global nonprofit, the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). Beneath ILSI's public narrative of unbiased science and no policy advocacy lay a maze of hidden channels companies used to advance their interests. Working through those channels, Coca-Cola influenced China's science- and policymaking during every phase in the policy process, from framing the issues to drafting official policy. Conclusions: Though China is exceptional, ILSI promoted exercise globally, suggesting potentially significant impacts in other ILSI-branch countries.
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Manufactured doubt describes the efforts used by organizations or individuals to obscure the harmful effects of their products or actions by manipulating science. Although approaches to do so are widely used, relevant stakeholders are often unaware of these tactics. Here, we examine the strategies used in five cases of manufactured doubt: tobacco and adverse health; coal and black lung; Syngenta and the herbicide atrazine; the sugar industry and cardiovascular disease; and the Marshall Institute and climate change. By describing the tactics used in these cases, effective methods for identifying and countering instances of manufactured doubt can be generated.