A study says that the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) is a food industry front group, despite the fact its mission is to “improve the wellbeing of the general public.” The co-authors are calling for the group to be recognised as a private sector entity rather than an independent scientific non-profit.
Using documents obtained by U.S. Right to Know via state public records requests, the study – published in Public Health Nutrition – uncovered “a pattern of activity in which ILSI sought to exploit the credibility of scientists and academics to bolster industry positions and promote industry-devised content in its meetings, journal, and other activities.”
“ILSI is insidious because they say they work for health when really they defend the food industry and its profits,” said Gary Ruskin, executive director of U.S. Right to Know, a consumer and public health group. “Across the world, ILSI is central to the food industry’s product defence, to keep consumers buying the ultra-processed food, sugary beverages and other junk food that promotes obesity, Type 2 diabetes and other ills.”
The study reveals how ILSI promotes the interests of the food and agrichemical industries, including:
- ILSI’s role in defending controversial food ingredients and suppressing unfavourable views to the industry
- that corporations such as Coca-Cola can earmark contributions to ILSI for specific programmes
- how ILSI uses academics for their authority but allows industry-hidden influence in their publications.
The study also reveals new details about which companies fund ILSI and its branches. For example, ILSI’s draft 2013 Internal Revenue Service form 990 shows that it received $337,000 from Coca-Cola, and more than $100,000 each from Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow AgroSciences, Pioneer Hi-Bred, Bayer Crop Science and BASF.
ILSI is incorporated as a non-profit organisation, based in Washington DC with 17 branches across the world. It was founded in 1978 by Alex Malaspina, a former senior vice president of Coca-Cola.
This is not the first investigation into ILSI. Last January, two papers by Harvard Professor Susan Greenhalgh, in the BMJ and the Journal of Public Health Policy, revealed ILSI’s influence on the Chinese government regarding issues related to obesity. Last June, the co-authors of today’s study released a previous study on ILSI in the journal Globalization and Health. Last September, the New York Times published an article about ILSI, titled A Shadowy Industry Group Shapes Food Policy Around the World. In April, the non–profit Corporate Accountability released a report on ILSI titled “Partnership for an Unhealthy Planet.”
- Read the latest study HERE.