Are America’s leading nutrition advisors handing out junk faster than a McDonald’s drive-thru?
A new report released by public health lawyer Michele Simon examines the strong financial ties between the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) and Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Monsanto, Mars, The Sugar Association, and other Big Food companies and groups.
They all donate lots of money to ASN by sponsoring events and conferences. For instance, companies like DuPont and the National Dairy Association paid as much as $50,000 to sponsor ASN sessions at a conference last year where attendees discussed things like bone health and the science behind low calorie sweeteners.
They also influence public policy. ASN’s highly influential and respected American Journal of Clinical Nutrition released a statement last year defending processed foods – in direct contradiction to other established findings. ASN also publicly opposed the FDA’s move to identify added sugars on Nutrition Facts labels – a move that was supported by the World Health Organization, the American Heart Association and others.
Hello, sweet sugar money!
Influence doesn’t stop at sponsorships and hob-knobbing at industry events. According to Mother Jones, past ASN President James O. Hill reported that he received fees from big food and beverage players. Roger Clemens, who formerly led ASN’s public information committee, worked as a “Science Advisor” for Nestlé for more than 20 years.
According to Simon’s report, “Official spokespeople for ASN have conflicts with Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, the American Beverage Association, General Mills and Cadbury Schweppes.”
Surely, not all ASN members are happy with the payout from peddlers of some of the world’s most unhealthy foods and beverages. And yes, nonprofit groups like ASN need outside financial support to survive.
But now a dark shadow looms over ASN’s reputation of integrity and objectivity. To be a leading researcher and advisor demands trust from the public whose health you’re trying to protect.
And that public now knows it all may be a super-sized lie.