Big Sugar-Buying Policy Influence in U.K.

Are nutrition policy experts in the U.K. under the influence of food companies whose products are packed with sugar? According to a newly published investigation in the journal The BMJ, the answer is yes.

The investigation, led by freelance journalist Jonathan Gornall, found that two key government funded organizations – the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and the Medical Research Council’s Human Nutrition Research unit at Cambridge – staff influential scientists who have been receiving research funding from food companies such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, and Weight Watchers International, among others.

It's not chump change.

The funding is substantial. According to their published data, researchers at the Human Nutrition Research unit at Cambridge on average received close to £250,000 ($380,000) a year for the past decade in funding from these private food companies.

In the years from 2010 to 2012, the amount of funding was a staggering £697,469. These amounts total out to be about five percent of the total annual funding for the unit.

These companies, whose food products are widely regarded as contributing to an obesity crisis in the United Kingdom, have been quietly funding some of the very research that guides policy leaders on the likes of nutritional standards.

On top of that, these same scientists have accepted direct payment for consultancy fees and have served on a variety of boards within the industry.

Elizabeth Loder of The BMJ said the influence these companies have over policy makers matters beyond the obvious. "Perceptions about the trustworthiness of nutritional research matter because consensus has not been achieved on the extent to which sugar contributes to health problems or what should be done about it," said Loder.

You can read the full report here: "Sugar: spinning a web of influence"

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