What’s inside the sugar industry filing cabinets? –Mother Jones
Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens relied on more than 1,500 pages of internal sugar industry documents for their talk “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies”. The article lifts the lid on Big Sugar’s decades-long campaign to bury any scientific evidence suggesting its product plays a role in what a top industry boss has called “killer diseases.” Their history is directly linked to many primary documents, but we have highlighted a few here. Also read Couzens’ account of how she quit her job as a dental administrator to seek influence from the sugar industry and eventually hit the mother lode.
How it all began: This 1942 document encourages sugar cane and sugar beet growers to create a joint research foundation to counter the “ignorance” facing the industry. In addition to the government’s “anti-sugar propaganda” sparked by wartime rationing, “regime fadists” convinced weight-conscious women to give up sweets.
A “supreme science politician”: In the 1960s, hoping to stem the rise of diet sodas, the research arm of the sugar industry spent over $600,000 (a good chunk of change at the time) to study all the imaginable health effects of cyclamate sweeteners. As John Hickson, then vice president and director of research for the International Sugar Research Foundation (ISRF), explained, “If someone can undersell you nine cents out of 10, you better find a brick that you can throw at him. The FDA banned cyclamates in 1969, based on “flimsy” evidence, according to a tobacco memo – and when Hickson moved into the tobacco business, his reputation preceded him.
Awakening : By the 1970s, there was enough evidence linking sugar to chronic disease for controversy to abound. In 1975, diabetes specialist Errol Marliss, a consultant, argued that it was in the interests of the industry to help settle the matter once and for all – he called on ISRF members to support significant research efforts to determine the safety of sugar. “A gesture rather than full support is unlikely to produce the answers sought,” Marliss had warned, according to the memo.
The gentleman from Coca-Cola on the word: From 1975 to 1980, according to this document, the Sugar Association spent about $655,000 on 17 studies under a program designed “to maintain research as the primary pillar of industry advocacy.” Each project was reviewed by a panel of scientific advisers, but required approval from a second committee made up of representatives from a dozen food and beverage giants, including Coca-Cola, Hershey’s, General Mills and Nabisco. One of the projects aimed to demonstrate that sugar could help relieve depression.
No conflicts here: In 1975, the Sugar Association’s Diet and Nutrition Advisory Board, a panel headed by Harvard University nutritionist and industry buddy Frederick Stare, put together a collection of papers defending sugar; the Sugar Association distributed 25,000 reprints of “Sugar in the Diet of Man”, along with a press release stating “Scientists Dispel Sugar Fears”. Nowhere in the reports was their source of funding mentioned. If asked directly, according to the note below, sugar PR people would have to admit that the industry funded it, but say it was all Stare’s idea.
No thanks you: In 1976, a committee appointed by the FDA to review whether sugar was “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) relied heavily on the aforementioned “Sugar in the Diet of Man.” In fact, this committee was led by George W. Irving Jr., who had previously chaired the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Sugar Research Foundation. The committee’s report, which gave sugar a free pass, credited the Sugar Association for “information and data,” as the association’s former president notes in that report to its board of directors. administration:
To hell with the pseudoscientists: In this 1976 letter to the editor of the New York Times Reviewformer Sugar Association president JW Tatem chastised the magazine for publishing an article by Harvard nutrition professor Jean Mayer likening it to the “anti-sugar tirades routinely thrust upon the ignorant public by pseudoscientists”.
Is it like “fair and balanced?” Today, the Sugar Association says these historical records “do not necessarily reflect the current mission or function” of the association. But a 2003 internal bulletin, in which the association assured its members that it was working to have “more balanced and unbiased” experts on the USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Panel, hints at current priorities. Of the industry.