Feature Competing Interests

Independence of nutritional information?

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c1438 (Published 22 March 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1438
  1. Phil Chamberlain, freelance journalist
  1. 1Colerne, Wiltshire
  1. phil-chamberlain{at}uk2.net

    The British Nutrition Foundation promotes itself as a source of impartial information, but as Phil Chamberlain reports, it does not always make its links with industry clear

    Next month the British Nutrition Foundation is hosting a one day conference looking at the science of low calorie sweeteners and aiming to “separate fact from fiction.”

    The event’s promotional web page contains all the key messages that the foundation uses about itself: it is objective and evidence based, is about how to use products appropriately, promotes consumer choice, and appeals to all those engaged in food and public health policy.1

    The web page doesn’t say, though the information is elsewhere on the foundation’s website,2 that the foundation is financially supported by Tate & Lyle, British Sugar, Ajinomoto (which makes Aminosweet), and McNeil Consumer Nutritionals (which makes Splenda sweetener). One of the participants in the panel discussion will be Tom Sanders, head of the nutritional sciences department at King’s College London, which has received millions from sugar company Tate & Lyle .3

    In February the foundation put out a press release saying people could shake off the winter blues by drinking more fluids.4 It didn’t say that funders include Danone (producers of Evian, Volvic, and Badoit bottled water), Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Innocent drinks, Twinings, Nestlé, and various yoghurt drink manufacturers,2 although a footnote at the end does mention the food industry as one of the foundation’s funding sources.

    Funding and independence

    For public health and food policy campaigners this merry go round of donation, publicity, and influence has been a source of concern since the foundation was formed more than 40 years ago. However, in the tightly knit world of nutrition, where people in food companies, non-governmental organisations, academia, and the government know each other and often have to work together, few …

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