How The Soda Industry Is Influencing Medical Organizations

Reposted from Popular Resistance

With increasing scrutiny over the dire health consequences of sugar-sweetened beverages, soda manufacturers have turned to obscuring the scienceconfusing the consumer, and sponsoring medical organizations whose recommendations influence both providers and patients. Unfortunately these corporate partnerships are conflicts of interest that undermine the credibility of the organizations and stymie reform.

Patient information website has information about diabetes and  recommendations for a healthy diet nestled neatly next to an advertisement for Coca-Cola.

AAFP's webpage about diabetes is partially underwritten by The Coca-Cola Company.Most notably, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has had acorporate partnership with The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) since 2009, which has resulted in educational materials and underwriting of their patient information website A striking example of how the partnership undermines the family physician’s credibility occurs on the page for “Diabetes,” which recommends a healthy diet, while nestled neatly next to an advertisement for Coca-Cola (see screen capture on the left) and a footnote acknowledging TCCC as “partial underwriter” for the page.

In a 2010 Annals of Family Medicine article, family medicine physician and medical ethicist Howard Brody clearly outlines the danger that conflicts of interest present to professional medical organizations. The problem goes beyond what happens “when one enters into arrangements that reasonably tempt one to put aside one’s primary obligations in favor of secondary interests, such as financial self-interest,” with a deeper concern for the “development of a corporate culture within a medical professional society,” that can lose focus on “its duty to the public health and public trust.” As the partnership grows, there will be a point where the AAFP cannot afford to end the partnership. The AMA learned a difficult and costly lesson when they signed a contract with Sunbeam back in 1998.

Unfortunately, this trend is becoming more and more common among medical organizations, as documented by the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s 2013 report Selfish Giving, which lists over ten medical organizations with soda industry sponsorship. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is on the list—an accolade that irked New York pediatrician Arnold Matlin MD so much that he crafted and got a resolution passed through the New York chapter this year calling for an end to corporate sponsorships of this kind. Dr Matlin laments that his organization takes money from the very company that profits from, “products that we know are bad for the health of children.” His resolution will be debated among the AAP membership next March at their headquarters in Illinois.

Another example of industry influence occurs at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) conferences, with sessions regularly sponsored by TCCC and McDonald’s. A group of outraged members of the AND call themselves Dietitians for Professional Integrity, and have organized resistance to sponsorship by companies who promote unhealthy products.

Gifts create bias

What studies have shown about taking money and gifts from pharmaceutical companies is that, however small, they influence us. For a medical organization, the consequences are even more important, as industry funding compromises the organization’s goals and messaging.

Image courtesy of Center for Science in the Public Interest

Whereas tobacco industry funding of medical organizations was once commonplace (as were medical institution investments in tobacco companies), soda companies have forged and maintained partnerships by seeding doubt in the public’s mind about the health consequences from over-consumption. The Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy’s publication “Sugar-Coating Science” details these deceptive practices and recommends combating industry claims with rigorous data and regulations.

Rejecting unhealthy corporate influence

We as family physicians have been combating these conflicts of interest for years. We are currently building a consortium of data and advocacy groups to speak out. Under the name Physicians Against Unhealthy Corporate Influence (PAUCI), we are encouraging physicians and other healthcare providers to distance themselves from industry influence, so a “new social norm may emerge that promotes patient care and scientific integrity.” Our group aims to be a hub for scientific and medical professionals to advance the work of reducing corporate conflicts of interest.

We call on the scientists and experts in the field to help contribute to advancing this goal. Please consider signing our petition to the AAFP Board of Directors, liking ourFacebook page, joining our LinkedIn group, helping fund our exhibit booth at the AAFP Scientific Assembly, and passing this article on to those who may be willing to speak up in their medical organizations to end these types of corporate partnerships. We have made significant headway with resolutions passed through the AAFP student and resident congress of delegates, as well as the Maryland Academy of Family Physicians, calling for the end of the AAFP-Coca Cola alliance.  If you will be attending the upcoming AAFP Scientific Assembly in Washington, DC, October 23-25, please visit the PAUCI booth #1863 in the exhibit hall.

We believe that the integrity of these organizations can be regained through rejection of current conflicts of interest so that members and the public can have confidence in the vision and mission to promote the health of the public. As anti-lead activist and geophysicist Dr. Claire Patterson once warned, “It is not just a mistake for public health agencies to cooperate and collaborate with industries in investigating and deciding whether public health is endangered—it is a direct abrogation and violation of the duties and responsibilities of those public health organizations.”

We never want money and power to have a louder voice than science, and we reject sponsorship from corporations who profit from making our patients sick.


Free 5-week Food Justice class kicks off Nov. 15

Food Policy for Food Justice WOMEN OF COLOR online 2

OKT has developed a series of handouts on Food Justice. Download them on our Resources page; click on Handouts and Zines and then on Food Justice Series.

Food Politics and the Food Justice Movement: Moving Forward, 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays Nov. 15, 22, Dec. 6, 13 & 20 at Garfield Park Lodge, 334 Burton St. SE 

Media watchdog, community organizer, and point-person for OKT’s policy analysis,  Jeff Smith will again lead this important look at how the industrial food system has created food apartheid and what we can do to further food justice.

     Investigate the current food system and food policy, look at food justice responses around the country and discusses what a food justice and food sovereignty movement in West Michigan could look like.
     Whether you are a professional actively involved in local efforts to eliminate hunger and undernutrition or a lay person who wants to know what you can do to increase your neighborhood’s access to healthy foods, this class will open your eyes to how the industrial food complex works and how you can challenge it.

OKT presents at national Black Urban Farmers & Growers Conference

20141018_112729On Saturday Oct. 18, OKT team members traveled to  Detroit to present three workshops to an international audience at the Black Urban Farmers &Growers Conference. OKT garden coach and policy point-person, Jeff Smith, shared the seven pillars of Food Justice, as developed by participants in OKT’s Food Justice class series over the past several years. Garden coach Camilla Voelker led a skill-share on Creating Edible Urban Foodscapes. OKT cooking coach, Toni Scott, and communications officer, Stelle Slootmaker, talked about How to Dialogue on Diet: Fostering Healthier Eating through Popular Education. Executive director, Lisa Oliver-King, pitched in at all three sessions and board member, Anita Moore, served as a great support person. All three presentations enjoyed great attendance and lively discussions. The team felt like they made a real contribution to an important gathering.


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Seed Swap and Potluck

Let’s save plant diversity–and save money! The Greater Grand Rapids Food System Council invites all area resident gardeners to meet for a Garden Gathering, Seed Swap and Potluck, 5 p,m. Saturday, Oct. 25 at the Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center, 409 Lafayette S.E 49503. Bring your organic,heirloom or non-gmo seeds and trade them with other local gardeners. The event also includes a potluck, so bring a dish to pass (if you can) and your own place setting.

“I am looking forward to swapping some of my seeds with fellow gardeners, says event organizer, Leslie Powers. “Also, I am excited to connect with people who are also saving seeds and to educate others about the importance of plant diversity and how saving our seeds accomplishes that.”

Leslie also notes that by swapping, you don’t have to buy a whole package of seeds when you only need a few for limited garden space. RSVP to Cynthia Price,  or (231)670-6059.

LINC offers civic engagement opportunities

lincOn Mondays, LINC invites city residents to gather at the LINC Gallery at 5 p.m.,  eat dinner take a 6 p.m. bus to the 6:30 p.m. GRPS school board meeting. On Tuesdays, gather at the LINC Gallery at 5:30 p.m.,  eat dinner take a 6:30 p.m. bus to the 7 p.m. GRPS school board meeting.
Residents taking part  will look at specific action issues that they may want to work on. “It isn’t just attending the meetings for the sake of attending the meetings,” says Stephanie Gingerich, Real Estate Development Director for LINC Community Revitalization Inc. “Although I do think that people’s presence in the audience is a statement in and of itself.”
For information, call LINC at 616-451-9140 and see how you can get involved.