Another New York Times article — this time on the ongoing sugar vs. high fructose corn syrup — discloses the food industry’s covert and dirty tactics when it comes to influencing public opinion. Once again, the Corn Refiners Association (which not only employs dietitians, but provides continuing education for dietitians via various workshops at the annual Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics conference) is front and center.
- “The [sugar vs. high fructose corn syrup] lawsuit, which has brought hundreds of pages of secret corporate emails and strategy documents into the public domain, demonstrates how Washington-based groups and academic experts frequently become extensions of corporate lobbying campaigns as rival industries use them to try to inflict damage on their competitors or defend their reputations against such assaults.”
- “Farming giants including Archer Daniels Midland, of Decatur, Ill., and Cargill, of Minneapolis, began an effort through their Washington trade group, the Corn Refiners Association, to rebut studies [that cast high fructose corn syrup in a negative light] and to persuade the Food and Drug Administration to declare its syrup “natural” and allow a more approachable product name, like “corn sugar.”
- “[The Corn Refiners spent] about $10 million over a four-year period to help fund research being conducted by a Massachusetts-based cardiologist and health expert, Dr. James M. Rippe, who then released a series of studies disputing any special health consequences associated with the corn-based sweeter. Such corporate support for product-based research is not unusual, and the industry’s support for this work was disclosed. But Dr. Rippe was also paid a $41,000-a-month retainer by the trade group, the court documents show, to serve as an outside expert whom it repeatedly asked to send commentary pieces to local newspapers and dispute any claims that consuming high-fructose corn syrup in foods was any more risky than sugar.”
- “The corn refiners took steps, at times, to keep their role in coaching outside experts a secret. An email from 2010, for example, shows they urged one executive from the International Society of Beverage Technologists, who was reviewing health issues related to the syrup, to be careful how he saved a computer document that the corn industry executives had edited, so that the industry’s role in helping craft his document could not be traced.”
The Sugar Association — which has had a booth at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ annual conference and expo for years — is just as guilty of similar shenanigans:
“Documents released as part of the lawsuit show that starting in 2011, it sent a total of $500,000 to a Washington nonprofit group, Citizens for Health, which calls itself the “consumer voice of the natural health community” on its website. The money was intended to help the small group, run by a lawyer named James S. Turner, to oppose the corn refiners’ effort to get permission from the Food and Drug Administration to rename their product as sugar — a petition the F.D.A. ultimately rejected.”
It’s great to see industry’s deception and spin slowly coming to light. We’d like to think these sorts of developments would make the Academy realize the corn refining industry should not have the privilege of educating dietitians in any way, shape, or form.