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Nutrition Advice, Brought to You by Big Food

Nutrition Advice, Brought to You by Big Food
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Released government documents show how Big Food has tried to stack a nutrition panel responsible for determining US dietary guidelines. Action Alert!

An investigation by STAT News has found that an advisory committee responsible for shaping American nutrition recommendations is rife with conflicts of interest. This helps explain why the Guidelines have, for years now, continued to miss the mark on several key health issues that, if followed, would undermine our health. It is a case study in crony capitalism.

Through Freedom of Information Act requests, STAT found that the food industry has worked tirelessly to get friendly “experts” on the 20-member advisory committee. The National Potato Council nominated a researcher behind an industry-funded study showing eating French fries every day doesn’t result in more weight gain than eating a comparable amount of almonds. The National Coffee Association nominated an academic who argues coffee consumption lowers the risk of certain cancers. The International Bottled Water Association nominated three researchers who study the benefits…of water.

Nominees who get selected for the committee deliberate over the latest nutrition science and then submit a report to regulators about what, if any, changes should be made to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Only the coffee researcher eventually made it to the panel of those mentioned above, but there are still extensive conflicts of interest among the panel members. Last year, a study found that 19 of 20 members serving on the nutrition committee had one or more conflicts of interest with Big Food, Big Ag, or Big Pharma. Peruse the current disclosures from the committee and you’ll find ties to the egg, beef, and dairy industries, to Big Food giants like Mars and McCormick, and to Pharma behemoths Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, and Boehringer Ingelheim. Whatever happened to the notion of independent science?

This is an inherent problem whenever the government tries to weigh in on something like nutrition: Big Food will use its considerable clout to influence the recommendations, which helps explain why the government’s guidelines are so off in several important areas. These include saturated fat, carbohydrates, ultra-processed foods, added sugars, grass-fed red meat, vitamin D, artificial sweeteners, other additives, plant nutrients (phytonutrients), and many more, as we’ve covered previously.

We should also mention that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) nominated four of the panel members. This is a problem because, in our view, the AND, and the dietetics profession generally, has been captured by industry interests and represents another avenue through which Big Food and even Big Pharma influences nutrition in this country.

The AND is the trade group for registered dietitians (RDs), and for years the AND worked at the state level to pass scope-of-practice laws under which only RDs could provide nutrition services. In recent years, those efforts appeared to have ramped down, thanks in part to ANH member advocacy calling for a free and open market for nutrition services. But the point is that the AND has had well-documented ties with Big Food companies, most infamously when the organization partnered with Kraft Foods to put their “Kids Eat Right” label on Kraft Singles—the  individually wrapped slices of “cheese product” popular in school lunches. A story broke earlier this month detailing how a group of RD social media influencers took money from the food industry to defend aspartame in the wake of the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer deeming the sweetener to be “possibly” carcinogenic.

At the same time the government is letting Big Food in through the back door to tell you what you should eat, the FDA and the FTC are clamping down on what kind of information you can access about the benefits of natural foods and supplements.

The path to better health isn’t more government advice or intervention, but to allow Americans access to all kinds of information about a variety of products and foods, particularly natural options, so we can make our own informed decisions. But Big Tech and the censorship industrial complex are working to remove or hide content that does not parrot the mainstream narrative, a trend that went into hyperdrive during the COVID years but continues to this day—a subject we’ll be returning to very soon.

Action Alert! Write to Congress in support of the free flow of information about natural foods and supplements. Please send your message immediately.

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