Dietary Public Health Research and the Food Industry

Almost all the food that we eat passes through commercial companies, and whether it is through voluntary action, public pressure, or government legislation, little will change in the production, distribution and marketing of food without concerted industry action. Commercial enterprise’s primary responsibility is to maximise profit for their shareholders. Some of the actions required to improve dietary public health are likely to be at odds with this goal and may require collaboration between the food industry and dietary public health researchers. However, researchers who study diet and public health can face real and perceived conflicts of interest, which may undermine their scientific integrity, if they engage with the food industry.

This area arouses strong feelings and raises many questions. This project is bringing together those from dietary public health research, those who understand the food industry, and policymakers with a range of perspectives on these and other questions.

Background

This project builds on discussions at an event held in December 2015. From this meeting it was agreed that wider international consensus on this issue needed to be sought. Full details of the event, including a full report can be found at:
www.cedar.iph.cam.ac.uk/diet-research-industry-2015

Current work

Following the pledge to gain wider international consensus, a project has been funded by CEDAR to make progress with this work.

The first component of this project involves compiling all known articles or reports that outline frameworks, guidelines or principles that should be followed by dietary public health researchers when they intend to engage with or accept funding from the food industry. Following collation of these documents the key principles will be identified and sent out as part of an international Delphi study to identify on which principles there is consensus. There will also be a consensus building activity aiming to develop an agreed typology of the food industry.

Funding source

This project is supported with core funding from CEDAR.

Research Team

Contact

For questions about this project, please contact Katherine Cullerton, Katherine.Cullerton@mrc-epid.cam.ac.uk