How Food Companies Influence Evidence and Opinion – Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

Gary Sacks, Boyd A. Swinburn, Adrian J. Cameron, Gary Ruskin

The tactics used by the food industry to influence public policy have been well documented, but there is little direct evidence of the rationale behind food industry actions and their level of support from within individual companies. This paper provides an analysis of an email exchange (from 2015) between former senior executives of Coca-Cola to gain insider insight into ways in which the food industry seeks to influence policy-makers as well as scientific evidence and opinion with respect to nutrition and non- communicable disease (NCD) prevention. The results provide direct evidence that senior leaders in the food industry advocate for a deliberate and co- ordinated approach to influencing scientific evidence and expert opinion. The paper reveals industry strategies to use external organisations, including scientific bodies and medical associations, as tools to overcome the global scientific and regulatory challenges they face. This evidence highlights the deliberate approach used by the food industry to influence public policy and opinion in their favour. It also demonstrates the importance of identifying and managing potential conflicts of interest when assessing the evidence base and when making policy decisions related to nutrition and NCD prevention.

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