In this powerful recent Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health op-ed, Stuart W. Flint — Research Fellow in Exercise Psychology at Sheffield Hallam University — weighs in on the presence of brands linked to ill health at academic conferences.
- “It seems unfathomable that brands of unhealthy food and drinks are present at health-related conferences. Coca-Cola was present at the European College of Sports Sciences (ECSS) conference in 2014 — where it was an exhibitor and sponsored three streams of oral presentations — [even though the group’s] mission statement specifies the application of sport science knowledge to improve health and well-being.”
- “These companies [i.e.: Coca-Cola and McDonald’s] have become increasingly seen in academic circles to promote a more positive image of the brands since links to ill health have been established. On a conscious and non-conscious level, these brands are attempting to influence public opinions as well as reach a wider consumer pool.”
- “The food and drink industry is big business and through continued links to academic institutions, experts and politicians, companies play a major role in policy development.”
- “It is pertinent to ask why brands of unhealthy food and drinks are permitted to have a top seat at the public health policy-making table when they represent vectors of disease.”
- “It is preposterous to think that health-related researchers and conference organizers believe it is acceptable to have brands attend, sponsor, and exhibit their products when they are a major case of ill health.
- “For researchers who do not align themselves with brands of unhealthy food and drink consumption but present at conferences sponsored by such brands, organizers are performing a disservice to research who are striving to improve awareness, treatment, management and prevention of ill health linked to unhealthy consumption by aligning themselves with these companies.”
- “Admirable work is being undermined by researchers and conference organizers that appear to sell out to these brands of unhealthy food and drink consumption.”