US nutrition panel’s ties to top food giants revealed in new report

Transparency group US Right to Know finds members linked to Nestlé, Coca-Cola and others, raising conflict-of-interest questions

THE GUARDIAN – Almost half of a federal government panel that helps develop US nutritional guidelines has significant ties to big agriculture, ultra-processed food companies, pharmaceutical companies and other corporate organizations with a significant stake in the process’s outcome.

The revelation is part of a new report from US Right to Know, a government transparency group that looked for ties to corporate interests among the 20-member panel of food and nutrition experts that makes recommendations for updating the US government’s official dietary guidelines.

It found nine members had ties to Nestlé, Pfizer, Coca-Cola, the National Egg Board and other prominent food lobby groups, among others.

The findings raise questions about whether the panel is looking out for Americans’ health or corporate profits, and “erodes confidence in dietary guidelines”, said Gary Ruskin of US Right to Know.

“Millions of Americans’ lives are affected by this report and it’s crucial that the report tell the truth to American people and it’s not degraded into another sales pitch for big food and big pharma,” he said.

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“The last thing that a food or pharmaceutical company wants to have is a federal agency that says ‘Don’t buy this stuff, don’t buy those products. That could potentially be a mortal threat to companies’ profit stream. So they are extremely attuned and sensitive to that possibility, and lobby in lots of ways to make sure that never happens.”

The panel, called the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DAGC), makes the recommendations to the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department Of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The guidelines are considered the “gold standard” for dietary advice in the US and around the world, and influence which foods are served in institutional settings such as schools, hospitals and military facilities.

They inform how healthcare professionals and nutritionists treat people, and influence how federal food aid is distributed, nutrition labeling, and how food products are formulated.

“The guidelines affect the entire US food system quite strongly, “ Ruskin said …


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