Big Food, Pharma Conflicts Compromise Dietary Guidelines

Food and pharmaceutical companies want a bigger say in what we eat.

What’s happening: According to a new report, influence peddling has infiltrated the advisory committee for US Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

  • Nine of 20 had conflicts of interest with food & bev, pharma, and weight loss industries.
  • Four have links with companies that have previously lobbied to influence the report.
  • Two or more members failed to disclose financial roles with Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, and Weight Watchers (WW), National Dairy Council, and Abbott.

No surprise, this has become a standard practice since the framework’s inception, published every five years since 1980. In previous years, as much as 95% of the council had high-risk conflicts.

Why it matters: More than one-off recommendations, these guidelines can impact nutrition-related education, healthcare, and retail policies for years to come. A start, calling out industry-funded experts is one thing, but Big Food and Pharma’s influence remains an ongoing concern.

  • In 2020, the USDA ignored the committee’s advice to cut sugar and alcohol allowances.
  • Multiple Big Food brands have ongoing relationships with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and American Academy of Pediatrics, among others.
  • The American Beverage Association paid dietitians, physicians, and fitness influencers to sway public opinion regarding nutritional information.

Punchline: Ultra-processed, sugar-laden food dominates the US food system, and it’s harming our well-being. As industry influences fight to undermine the very definition of healthy, eating well won’t get any easier.

Get the latest health and fitness industry news

Keep up with industry news, trends, investment activity, and job openings — in one weekly newsletter.

    No thanks.