For Giant Food Corps, Lip Service on Ethics

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If it's one thing the food industry does really well, it's surely to pat itself on the back. Something called The Ethisphere Institute (motto: "Good. Smart. Business. Profit.") has produced a list of the world's most ethical companies, among them Kellogg's, Danone, PepsiCo, and Unilever.

How did Ethisphere do this? It analyzed data from the companies. I'm guessing it didn't include marketing to children or misleading health claims as ethical criteria.

And food company representatives have gotten together to establish guidelines for funding food and nutrition research so as to prevent conflicts of interest. The guidelines make sense--keep everything transparent and stay out of the way of research and publication--but do not address what I see as the most serious consequence of food industry sponsorship: setting up research studies to inevitably yield results that favor the sponsor's products.

This, I can assure you, is remarkably easy to do and happens all the time (see, for example, my post on Açaí).

Yes, food and nutrition research is difficult to do and interpret. That is why independent funding is essential. At least that's how I see it. You?

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Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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