The British Medical Journal has attacked the government’s leading obesity advisor for compromising independence by accepting funding from food industries for research projects.
The Journal said that many public health scientists had links with those in the sugar industry, including Professor Susan Jebb, chair of the government’s Responsibility Deal food network.
Jebb, professor of diet and population health at the University of Oxford, and previously with the Medical Research Council, has received support for her research from Coca-Cola, Sainsbury’s, Cereal Partners and Rank Hovis McDougall.
In a statement, Jebb said the BMJ article by a freelance journalist, Jonathan Gornall, “implies that industry funding for research projects I led as part of my employment with the UK Medical Research Council has compromised my role as chair of the Public Health Responsibility Deal, but fails to provide any evidence to support this.”
She added: “Everything I do, whether in my research or as chair of the Responsibility Deal, is to try to improve public health. I do think that requires discussion with the food industry, and I think it is appropriate that we should be encouraging them to invest in research conducted by independent scientists.”
This comes after the revelation last year that experts on the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), which has just revised the government’s advice on carbohydrates in the diet, had also received funding from industry organisations.
However, Public Health England has since defended the SACN’s review on carbohydrates, pointing out the fact that there were safeguards to ensure that “the report… would reflect considerations of the whole of SACN and would not be influenced by an individual member of the committee.”
The SACN is set to have the next meeting about its review on carbohydrates this month, with the expectation that the final paper be published in spring.