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Will ‘Big Food’ Control Nutrition Group?

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Burger pulls tieANH-USA

A new report details how Big Food appears to have captured yet another key nutrition group, the American Society of Nutrition.

You may remember that a few weeks back we reported on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ (AND) ill-fated partnership with Kraft Foods. Kraft was permitted to place the AND’s “Kids Eat Right” logo on their Kraft Singles synthetic “cheese product.” After the story broke, AND backpedaled.

Last week saw the release of another report, this time exposing the ties between the American Society of Nutrition (ASN)—whose membership includes some of the nation’s leading nutrition scientists and researchers — and junk food giants like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Monsanto, McDonald’s, and Mars.

Among the report’s findings:

  • Of the thirty-four scientific sessions at ASN’s annual meeting, six were financially supported by PepsiCo.
  • 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, which referred to “putative health concerns.”
  • For $35,000, junk food companies can sponsor a hospitality suite at the annual meeting, where corporate executives socialize with nutrition researchers.
  • Official spokespeople for ASN reportedly have ties to Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, the American Beverage Association, General Mills, and Cadbury Schweppes.
  • ASN published an eighteen-page defense of processed food that appears to consist of numerous talking points for the junk food industry, such as this one: “There are no differences between the processing of foods at home or at a factory.” Parents who work hard to make meals from scratch for their children deserve better than this.
  • 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.

Despite these well-documented ties to Big Food, ASN plays an active role in public policy formation. Just when the federal government was drafting its update of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, ASN published a report revealingly entitled “Processed Foods: Contributions to Nutrition.” It seems to us that ASN plays a useful role — but only for junk food companies looking to influence government nutrition policies.

Because it purports to be a bastion of science-based information about nutrition, ASN also influences what nutritionists and the general public consider to be “good nutrition.” The findings of this week’s exposé should be enough to give all of us pause when considering the “scientific” information put out by ASN.

The main takeaway, then, is this: ASN is actively promoting policy decisions and disseminating information that line the coffers of its Big Food patrons. Until ASN severs these ties with the junk food industry, Americans should look elsewhere for nutrition advice.

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© June 23, 2015 Alliance for Natural Health, CC BY 3.0 US, re-posted with permission

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