February 14, 2023

Letter: Conflicts of Interest Obscure Food Industry’s Role in Obesity Epidemic

A recent article from New York Times reporter Gina Kolata, Why Experts Are Urging Swifter Treatment for Children With Obesity, suggests childhood obesity is mainly related to genetics, while remaining silent on the primary driver of this 21st century epidemic: the heightened, never before experienced consumption of ultra-processed foods, high in added sugar, fat, and salt, and often life-threatening toxins.

The article does not mention the role of predatory marketing by fast food companies or the outsized political influence of Big Food and Soda. In fact, it highlights experts and institutions that have significant conflicts of interest with the ultra-processed food and pharmaceutical industries.

Dr. Benjamin Caballero, for example, has participated in research funded by Dannon, and his institution has received nearly $500,000 from pharmaceutical companies like Mead Johnson. The American Academy of Pediatrics, meanwhile, receives funding from the maker of Wegovy (Novo Nordisk), an obesity drug it is now recommending.

Ms. Kolata’s article shows just how the ultra-processed food and pharmaceutical industries use scientific research, nutrition policies, and the media to promote their false narrative of the obesity crisis. We expect the Times to adopt independent and industry-free science, especially while reporting on critical public health issues, such as the health of our children.

Ashka Naik is the Director of Research and Policy at Corporate Accountability.

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