May 08, 2019 08:00 AM EDT
In a paper published in the Journal of Public Health Policy yesterday presented by an international team of researchers, they showed how Coca-Cola has funded several public university research though in all their contracts it seems like the company has to approve of any research results prior to publication in a scientific journal and even prevent publication.
This is very much in contrast to the company's publicly statde goal of transparency which they adapted after the New York Times revealed in 2915 how the company funded several scientists to shift the focus of the role of nutrition in obesity.
This most recent study looked into 5 research agreements between Louisiana State University, the University of South Carolina, the University of Toronto, and the University of Washington and Coca-Cola.
One of the authors of the paper, Gary Ruskin, co-founder and co-director of nonprofit food watchdog US Right to Know, stated that they are extremely motivated to pursue the research because of "Coca-Cola's efforts to evade responsibility for its role in the global obesity epidemic."
Marion Nestle, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition and public health at New York University, is also in agreement and stated that she couldn't believe that the researchers were able to obtain this information.
Companies that sponsor research make sure that they get what they pay for," she says. "Industry-funded research is marketing research, not scientific research."
But according to Harvard's Susan Greenhalgh, Ph.D., who also published 2 papers in January about how Coca-Cola influenced China to focus on physical fitness instead of nutrition when talking about the role of sugary beverages like Coca-Cola, these papers doesn't really paint the company in a terrible light, given that the contracts were not too aggressive toward researchers.
"This makes the company look like it's at least trying to be responsible in terms of managing the science," she says, acknowledging that Coca-Cola's conduct in this study is "at least a very good legal show of doing the right thing."
Although the contracts all seemed legal she also stated that"The most damning term was this termination clause, but beyond that, they don't find much evidence for the kinds of influence that I think they were looking for."
The researchers then made recommendations on transparency when it comes to funding in the future. In the case of funding coming from Coca-Cola, the researchers noted that a full-text disclosure of the funding agreements should also be included to give a fully transparent look on how the company is influencing their research; in fact, this goes to all other corporately funded researches.
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