A international so-called science institute has for years embedded itself on public health panels run by the European Union and United Nations, only to work against the goals of such bodies by pushing the profit-focused agendas of the tobacco, pesticide, and other industries, according to a new study.
World Health Organization (WHO) consultant Simon Barquera tweeted Monday that it was “Black Monday” for the Washington, D.C.-based International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) after researchers at two universities and the U.S. Right to Know organization released a study showing that the group has received millions of dollars from the industries it’s meant to protect consumers from.
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According to researchers at Cambridge University and Bocconi University in Milan, top officials at ILSI often sit on international panels where government leaders discuss the negative impacts tobacco, sugary foods, and chemicals have on the public—but use their positions to push for lax regulations on those products.
ILSI “has been used by its corporate backers for years to counter public health policies,” head researcher Sarah Steele told The Guardian.
“ILSI should be regarded as an industry group—a private body—and regulated as such, not as a body acting for the greater good,” she added.
Steele and her team uncovered documents like a 2015 email from ILSI founder Alex Malaspina to executives at Coca-Cola, in which he called new sugar intake guidelines in the U.S. a “disaster” for the soft drink company.
The new rules could give way to a host of public health-focused regulations, Malaspina wrote, including taxes on sodas and new efforts to educate the public about limiting sugar consumption.
Ultimately, Malaspina said the guidelines could lead to “a great pressure from CDC and other agencies to force industry to start deducing drastically the sugar we add to processed foods and beverages.”