In the past few decades, the role of big companies in industry-related research has come to light, such as the role of tobacco companies to sway research outcomes regarding the harmful effects of cigarette smoke. Despite public assurances of transparency, it appears these powerful and wealthy companies are still influencing research outcomes. In particular, one very well-known Big Soda company seems to still be influencing health and sugar science research.
Research Agreements that Favor Companies' Wishes
A recent FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) document exposed by the public health and nonprofit consumer watchdog U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) revealed contracts between the Big Soda company and four research universities. The contracts showed that although the company does not control day-to-day research activities, it does have certain powers throughout the process. This includes the ability to stop or prevent studies from being published.
The findings from these contracts was discussed in a formal commentary published in the Journal of Public Health Policy, which stated that the company had the right to:
- Review and comment on studies before publication
- Intellectual property connected to the research
- Study data
- Control disclosure of results
- Control disclosure of funding, meaning the company could prevent researchers from stating where the funding came from
- End any research project for any reason, including no reason
What does this mean for consumers?
The ability for a funder to control and even stop or hide research is dangerous. This gives companies with deep pockets an ability to sway what is portrayed as "science." For instance, Big Soda has been a long-time proponent that the obesity epidemic is caused by inactivity alone, not processed and sugary foods.
"Soda Politics" author and New York University professor of nutrition and public health, Marion Nestle, Ph.D., stated that the released documents are "jaw-dropping." Further, she stated in a quote to Inverse, "Industry funded research is marketing research, not scientific research."
Consumers should be cautious and look to see who is funding the research that is . being cited in news articles. Additionally, consumers should support laws that enforce preregistration of nutritional studies, much like what is required for clinical trials. This would promote transparency and openness as results for all preregistered studies would be made public, including some of those Big Soda-funded studies that were recently hidden!
If you'd like to learn more about the FOIA documents that were recently released, visit Mercola for more information.