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.
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
Following the pledge to gain wider international consensus, a project was funded by the Medical Research Council to make progress with this work.
The first component of this project has involved 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 were identified and explored using an international Delphi study to identify on which principles there is consensus.
An international workshop in 2018 built consensus on guidelines for researchers to minimise the risks of interacting with the food industry. A toolkit to support the guidelines is under development, which we anticipate will be published in 2022.
- Cullerton K, Adams J, Forouhi N, Francis O, White M. (2019) Building consensus on the governance of relationships between dietary public health researchers and the food industry: two stage, online, international Delphi study and a stakeholder survey. PLOS ONE https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0221250
- Cullerton K, Adams J, Forouhi N, Francis O, White M. (2019) What principles should guide interactions between researchers and the food industry? Systematic scoping review of peer reviewed and grey literature. Obesity Reviews. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12851
This project is supported with core funding from the MRC Epidemiology Unit, and additional funding from the Medical Research Council.
- Prof Martin White (lead investigator)
- Dr Jean Adams
- Prof Nita Forouhi
- Oliver Francis
- Dr Katherine Cullerton
For questions about this project, please contact Martin White: firstname.lastname@example.org