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Thinking Forward: The Quicksand of Appeasing the Food Industry

  • Kelly D. Brownell mail

    kelly.brownell@yale.edu

    Affiliation: Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America

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  • Published: July 03, 2012
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001254
  • Published in PLOS Medicine

Reader Comments (3)

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Researcher should show competing interests

Posted by Pamela13 on 04 Jul 2012 at 00:52 GMT

Kelly Brownell received $5.6 million in grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation which resulted in promoting taxing sugary beverages. http://www.rwjf.org/child...

These are all the publications as a result of this "grant". http://www.rwjf.org/pr/se...

RWJF is a major shareholder in Johnson & Johnson (RWJF was created with JnJ stock).
Johnson & Johnson owns the McNeil Company.
McNeil makes SPLENDA.

I see no mention whatsoever by Ms. Brownell that she's received beaucoup bucks from this pharmaceutical company's "foundation" in the form of grants that promotes laws and taxes the ultimately move J&J products.

No competing interests declared.

RE: Researcher should show competing interests

jake3_14 replied to Pamela13 on 04 Jul 2012 at 16:16 GMT

The RWJF, unlike astroturf front groups of the food processors, has an long history of promoting an array of public health initiatives. The foundation's membership and financial structure assures that the foundation is insulated from the operating concerns of J&J.

Nor is the foundation alone in pointing out and questioning the role of food processors in the obesity epidemic. UCSF's Dr. Robert Lustig, for example, has long criticized the overloading of processed food with sugar. And virtually every public-health agency in the world has recommended eating more unprocessed food for the past 20+ years.

These two sets of facts make the charge of institutional bias against Brownell baseless. While one might take issue of whether government regulation is the proper tool to combat obesity, there's no questioning Brownell's integrity.

No competing interests declared.

RE: Researcher should show competing interests

manderson409 replied to Pamela13 on 05 Jul 2012 at 15:15 GMT

Dr. Brownell (who, I believe, is a man!) seems to be in favor of taxing sugary drinks. Evidence solidly supports this position (the fact that increased taxes have been very successful in decreasing tobacco use, especially in young people, is one nice example).
The list of publications you reference is quite impressive and does not include any promotion of the product Splenda that I can see.
Fighting the very powerful food industry (whose goal must be to make money) is surely an uphill battle (and one that our future health depends on!). Dr. Brownell must be commended for his frank and eloquent message and should have the full support of all people who believe that the health of our community is even more important than business interests.

No competing interests declared.

RE: RE: Researcher should show competing interests

Pamela13 replied to manderson409 on 07 Jul 2012 at 05:36 GMT

Commended? I'm asking that HE report financial conflicts of interest. It has previously been discussed in this very publication how anti-tobacco organizations should distance themselves from big pharma and foundations associated with (and FUNDED BY) big pharma. The same holds true with the latest witch hunt - sugar I think $5.6 million is a large enough sum that it should be reported that RWJF paid him (er..awarded a grant). No less should be expected from someone from the other side who has taken money from the sugar industry or tobacco industry. RWJF has awarded grants handsomely to many, many institutions and organizations to lobby for laws from which they profit. Oh, they SAY they cannot lobby but if A=B and B=C, then A=C and they L-O-B-B-Y and those who help push this along should report their financial association. BTW, didn't J&J just combine their topamax with another pharma drug to get an FDA approved diet drug? Didn't Ethicon Endo pay for a study (another JnJ company) that showed weight reduction surgery is cost effective? Never mind that Ethicon Endo PROVIDES this service. This should all be in the light of day for people to draw their own conclusions. When financial conflicts are not mentioned, it looks even worse for the researcher than if they'd been honest in the first place. I'm saying DECLARE!

No competing interests declared.

RE: Researcher should show competing interests

MichaelJMcFadden replied to Pamela13 on 07 Jul 2012 at 09:40 GMT

Manderson, whether or not someone's work should be commended for its results should be of interest in a political campaign, but it should have nothing at ALL to do with following proper scientific and ethical disclosure procedures in submitting a scientific article to a journal!

Several years ago I was publicly attacked in a newspaper by a professor in Canada because the newspaper (when publishing a previous article by me) had properly disclosed my one possible financial competing interest (as signed below) but had neglected to add the information (which I had given them) as to the various unpaid activities I performed with citizens' groups. Because of that omission I was painted as astroturfing for Big Tobacco. If Brownell has truly been doing all his work in this area in his spare time and has not received any grants or compensation for it then Pamela 13's criticism is unfounded however.

I'm sure Prof. Brownell (or at least people who will communicate with him) will be reading this, so, Professor, would you like to make such a statement of no past or present financial involvement with RWJF's efforts in this area? Was Pamela13's statement about five million dollars in grants completely unfounded?

In any event, could you point us toward a URL for the larger grants and (quite important) their grant application proposals?

I think Professor Brownell can and should set this matter to rest just as I have always done when such accusations have been levied against me. Such openness about our identities and interests should always be primary in scientific communications. E.G. ID'ng myself by name and "bio" as merely something like Mike3_14 would be quite inappropriate.

Competing interests declared: Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"
A long time non-compensated activist and sometimes officer in a good number of Free-Choice citizens' groups.

RE: RE: Researcher should show competing interests

denisiaSB replied to MichaelJMcFadden on 10 Jul 2012 at 03:01 GMT

The article is so well written and on point. It is unfortunate that the question of competing financial interests is clouding its relevance.

Prof Brownell should disclose any and all potentially competing interests. There is no other alternative...The juxtaposition of science and Big Food Or Big Pharma is far too blurred already to the detriment of all of us...

No competing interests declared.