Eat Drink Politics
by Michele Simon
In my new report, I expose the American Society for Nutrition (ASN), the nation’s leading authority of nutrition scientists and researchers, for its cozy relationships with the likes of PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Nestle, McDonalds, Monsanto, Mars, and even the Sugar Association. Such conflicts of interest are similar to those exposed in my previous report about the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Powerful junk food companies purchase “sustaining partnerships” from the American Society for Nutrition, gaining access to the nation’s leading nutrition researchers at their annual meetings, and in their policy positions. ASN’s “Sustaining Member Roundtable Committee” includes PepsiCo’s Chief Scientific Officer and the Chief Science Officer at National Dairy Council.
Additional findings in the report include:
- Of the 34 scientific sessions at ASN’s annual meeting, 6 were supported by PepsiCo
- Other session sponsors included the Egg Nutrition Center, Kellogg, DuPont Nutrition and Health, Ajinomoto, and the National Dairy Council
- The International Life Sciences Institute (a front group for Big Food and Big Pharma) sponsored a session on low-calorie sweeteners; speakers included a scientific consultant for Ajinomoto, which produces aspartame
- The Grocery Manufacturers Association, a lobbying group for the food and beverage industries, sponsored a symposium on sodium intake, noting “putative health concerns”
- A session on “Sweeteners and Health” was sponsored by the Rippe Health Institute without disclosing that founder James Rippe is a consultant to the Corn Refiners Association, which represents makers of high fructose corn syrup
- For $35,000, junk food companies can sponsor the hospitality suite at the annual meeting, where corporate executives socialize with nutrition researchers
- Obesity researcher David Allison serves on the editorial board of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ASN’s flagship publication; he has been a consultant to The Sugar Association, World Sugar Research Organization, PepsiCo, Red Bull, Kellogg, Mars, and Dr. Pepper Snapple
- Official spokespeople for ASN have conflicts with Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, the American Beverage Association, General Mills, and Cadbury Schweppes
- ASN published an 18- page defense of processed food that consists of numerous talking points for the junk food industry, such as “There are no differences between the processing of foods at home or at a factory”
- ASN opposes an FDA proposed policy to include added sugars on the Nutrition Facts panel, at a time when excessive sugar consumption is causing a national public health epidemic.
The report concludes with a statement from Food Politics author and long-time ASN member Marion Nestle:
I think it’s important that professional societies like ASN promote rigorous science and maintain the highest possible standards of scientific integrity. Research and education about food and nutrition are easily influenced by funding from food companies but such influence often goes unrecognized. This means that special efforts must be taken to avoid, account for, and counter food industry influence, and organizations like ASN should take the lead in doing so.