6-Regulation: WHO 'infiltrated by food industry'
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TITLE: WHO 'infiltrated by food industry'
SOURCE: The Guardian, UK, by Sarah Boseley
DATE: Jan 9, 2003
------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------
WHO 'infiltrated by food industry'
The food industry has infiltrated the World Health Organisation, just as
the tobacco industry did, and succeeded in exerting "undue influence" over
policies intended to safeguard public health by limiting the amount of fat,
sugar and salt we consume, according to a confidential report obtained by
The report, by an independent consultant to the WHO, finds that:
· food companies attempted to place scientists favourable to their views on
WHO and Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) committees
· they financially supported non-governmental organisations which were
invited to formal discussions on key issues with the UN agencies
· they financed research and policy groups that supported their views
· they financed individuals who would promote "anti-regulation ideology" to
the public, for instance in newspaper articles.
"The easy movement of experts - toxicologists in particular - between
private firms, universities, tobacco and food industries and international
agencies creates the conditions for conflict of interest," says the report
by Norbert Hirschhorn, a Connecticut-based public health academic who
searched archives set up during litigation in the US for references to food
companies owned or linked to the tobacco industry.
He finds that there is reasonable suspicion that undue influence was
exerted "on specific WHO/FAO food policies dealing with dietary guidelines,
pesticide use, additives, trans-fatty acids and sugar.
"The food industry is considerably engaged in genetically modified foods
and the tobacco industry has studied the matter closely with respect to its
product; there is evidence the tobacco industry planned also to influence
the debate over biotechnology."
The WHO and FAO need the scientific input of the food industry, says the
report, but that input must be transparent and subject to open debate.
"One industry-led organisation, International Life Sciences Institute
(ILSI), has positioned its experts and expertise across the whole spectrum
of food and tobacco policies: at conferences, on FAO/WHO food policy
committees and within WHO, and with monographs, journals and technical
Some of the strongest criticism in the report is levelled against the ILSI,
founded in Washington in 1978 by the Heinz Foundation, Coca-Cola, Pepsi-
Cola, General Foods, Kraft (owned by Philip Morris) and Procter & Gamble.
Until 1991 it was led by Alex Malaspina, vice-president of Coca-Cola.
Dr Malaspina established ILSI as a non-governmental organisation "in
official relations" with the WHO and secured it "specialised consultative
status" with the FAO.
Eileen Kennedy, global executive director of ILSI, said that the funding of
its regional groups came exclusively from industry, while the central body
received money from the branches, from government and from an endowment set
up by Dr Malaspina. Nonetheless, she said, ILSI regarded itself as an
[ILSI together with Monsanto and other biotech companies also developed the
"official" approach how to evaluate the allergenic potential of GE food.
Especially the part on unknown allergenes has been judged by independent
experts as not appropriate. HM/GENET]
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