The War for Nutrition Science IntegrityNovember 23, 2010
One nutrition organization looks to be in the pocket of Big Pharma and the worst of the junk food manufacturers. Another organization has been a more independent voice for nutrition. Guess which one is attempting to swallow the other?
The American Society for Nutrition (ASN), the largest society for nutrition researchers in the US, openly receives support from pharmaceutical companies like Abbott Nutrition and Martek Biosciences, genetic engineering and pesticide giant Monstanto, food processor ConAgra, and junk food suppliers and producers Coca-Cola, Mars, Kraft, McDonald’s, General Mills, and Kellogg’s, not to mention the Sugar Association, Inc. (among many others).
Think about that: an organization claiming “excellence in nutrition research and practice” receives major funding from companies making drugs, pesticides, and some of the most health-damaging foods on the planet. It must be greatly influenced by those companies’ worldviews.
Case in point: ASN manages the Smart Choices food labeling system, designed and paid for by the nation’s major food manufacturers to “help people make choices about healthier food.” Yet you’ll find a “Smart Choice” seal of approval on boxes of Froot Loops™ breakfast cereal, which is made of 41% sugar, partially-hydrogenated oils, and artificial coloring and chemicals—which prompted a popular website to give ASN its Integrity Disgrace Award.
ASN is openly dismissive of organic foods, as this video on their website clearly demonstrates.
A competing organization, the American College of Nutrition (ACN), was established in 1959 to advance the scientific investigation of nutrition. It publishes a journal (which the Department of Health and Human Services accepted into Medline, the National Library of Medicine’s premier bibliographic database). The organization is also largely free from Big Food and Pharma funding, having received only one $5,000 gift from Big Food in the last several years, in sharp contrast to ASN.
In August, ACN’s board of directors voted to merge with ASN, though the merger has not yet been consummated. Last week, a class action lawsuit was filed by ACN members to halt the merger, claiming that the process “wrongfully attempted to disenfranchise ACN’s members and deny them a vote” on the merger, in violation of Delaware corporation law.
On Friday, November 19th, the judge ordered both organizations to stop all further actions on the merger pending a hearing scheduled for late December. Veteran healthcare/health freedom attorney Rick Jaffe is representing the plaintiff class, assisted by local Delaware counsel Jessica Zeldin.
Why is this lawsuit important? If we’re going to reform the medical establishment so that it turns away from harmful drugs and expensive and often unnecessary procedures, we have to approach that reform from a nutritional point of view. And to do that, it is vital that we have science-based nutrition research that has independence and integrity, free from influence by Big Pharma or Big Food. ASN seems to us to be clearly in the pocket of those stakeholders, and so does the American Dietetic Association (ADA). If special interests control both research (ASN) and practitioners (ADA), we have a worst-case scenario on our hands.
It is absolutely essential that there be an independent voice. The future of ACN is important for American nutrition, which in turn is enormously important for American medicine—which (not to put too fine a point on it) is important for the future of the country.